Food Costs at Advent: Cheap and Costly

Advent Season is a time of preparation for Christ’s coming into the world. We celebrate his first advent and eagerly anticipate his Second Coming. Advent is considered a penitential time of somber expectation of Christ’s judgment. We have turned it into a Christmas Party with all the necessary carols and trimmings, and have forgotten the Judgment. Our materialism, overspending, and overdoing stresses us to the maximum and we neglect God’s priorities. This is a season to get our hearts and lives straight, our priorities in order.

A woman bought a parrot to keep her company. She took him home, but returned the bird to the store the next day. “This bird doesn’t talk,” she told the owner. “Does he have a mirror in his cage?” asked the pet store owner. “Parrots love mirrors. They see themselves in the mirror and start up a conversation.” The woman bought a mirror and left. The next day, she returned to the store. The bird still wasn’t talking. “How about a ladder? Parrots love walking up and down a ladder. A happy parrot is more likely to talk.” The woman bought a ladder and left. Sure enough, she was back the next day; the bird still wasn’t talking. “Does your parrot have a swing? If not, that’s the problem. He’ll relax and talk up a storm.” The woman reluctantly bought a swing and left. When she walked into the store the next day, her countenance had changed. “The parrot died,” she said. The pet store owner was shocked. “I’m so sorry. Tell me, did he ever say a word?” he asked. “Yes, right before he died,” the woman replied. “He said, ‘Don’t they sell any food at that pet store?’”

The Holiday season can cause us to spend all of our time and energy on the frills and thrills of Christmas and miss the true nourishment that we need. However, it’s Advent season that helps us prepare for Christ in the most appropriate and profound ways. Isaiah 9:6-7 reminds us that God’s best gift of grace isn’t something you can buy online or at a mall. Grace comes through a child born in a stall: “For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end.”

What’s the cost of this gift? Hear God’s voice in Isaiah 55:1-3a: “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live.”

Come to Jesus the Bread of Life, born in Bethlehem which aptly means in Hebrew, “House of Bread.” Why get so caught up in the candy canes and peripheral fluff of the season when our best sustenance can come only from the Source: God. Put away your credit cards and eat for free from the One who said, “This is my body, my blood; take eat and drink…” The parrot said: “Don’t they sell any food at that pet store?” Jesus says to those of us overwhelmed by life: “I am the bread from heaven, come, eat and be satisfied.”

This everlasting food isn’t just for our personal needs in a self-service buffet “I want what I want” kind of way. God has made it clear that what we do for others, especially the least, lowest, and the lost, we have done for God. Be generous this season with those in need and remember the words of Hebrews 13:1-3: “Love and treat everyone like family. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.”

Listen to the words of Joan Osborne’s “What if God was One of Us?” sung by the “Glee” cast and notice the Bread of heaven. By the way, Osborne’s intro words on her original are very appropriate for Advent, too – check out the first 15 seconds on Youtube at

“one of these nights at about twelve o’clock
this whole earth’s gonna reel and rock…
things thay’ll tremble and cry for pain
for the Lord’s gonna come in his heavenly airplane.”

Make Haste!

Work wasn’t a stranger around our house when I was a youngster. Many hours were spent tilling the garden, hoeing the flower beds, cutting the grass, feeding the cows, fixing fences, pumping gas at the Texaco station, or being a meat-cutter at my grandfather’s country store. During Christmas break I operated a fireworks stand for two weeks, and in the summers I either worked in a peach packing shed or penned cows and hogs at my father’s stockyards. My father’s philosophy was clear if he caught me sitting on the fence or lazing around in other ways: “Off and on!” he would yell. What he meant can be translated a number of ways, but the best way I can phrase it would be, “Quit resting on your laurels and get on your feet!” Hard work was a given.

When I was a kid I wasn’t that keen on work, although I must admit the monetary gain came in very handy, plus I was always the fastest person on our football team thanks to chasing or being chased by 2000 lb. cows. I miss my Dad’s admonition to get up and get with it, “To Make Haste!” as he would put it. The value of a good work ethic is immeasurable. As much as I like time off and rest, there’s nothing like a good night’s sleep after a day of manual labor. Rest is all the more sweet thanks to the satisfaction of a good day’s work.
Certainly, I enjoyed some tasks more than others. One of my hardest lessons about work came from one of my uncles. He said that he would give me 50 cents for every bushel of butterbeans I shelled. I thought that sounded like a good deal until my fingers felt like they were going to fall off after shelling about one-fourth of what I was supposed to do. He wanted me to learn that money doesn’t come easily. He was right. There is no free ride in this world.
Work is a gift from God, to be sure, but we can’t enjoy this gift unless we put it to use. The best use that can turn any labor into a blessing is to “work for the Lord.” If I can work for the intrinsic reward of pleasing the Lord, then the extrinsic 50 cents doesn’t much matter. If whatever the menial task is done for Jesus’ sake then we can be content whatever our lot in life. That is, if we do it to the best of our ability. From this perspective, work can indeed be a gift from God. Famous artist, Emile Zola, put it this way: “The artist is nothing without the gift, but the gift is nothing without work.”
Perhaps you have heard or read the story of how work makes the difference between heaven and hell. There was a man who died and found himself in a beautiful place, surrounded by every conceivable comfort. A white-jacketed man came to him and said, “You may have anything you choose – any food – any pleasure – any kind of entertainment.” The man was delighted, and for days he sampled all the delicacies and experiences of which he had dreamed on Earth. But one day he grew bored with all of it, and calling the attendant to him, he said, “I’m tired of all this. I need something to do. What kind of work can you give me?” The attendant sadly shook his head and replied, “I’m sorry, sir. That’s the one thing we can’t do for you. There is no work here for you.” To which the man answered, “That’s a fine thing. I might as well be in hell.” The attendant said softly, “Where do you think you are?”