Based on Luke 12: 15-21

Jesus said to the crowd, "Avoid greed in all its forms. A man may be wealthy, but his possessions do not guarantee him life."

He told them a parable in these words: "There was a rich man who had a good harvest. 'What shall I do?' he asked himself. 'I have no place to store my harvest. I know!' he said. 'I will pull down my grain bins and build larger ones. All my grain and my goods will go there. Then I will say to myself: You have blessings in reserve for years to come. Relax! Eat heartily, drink well. Enjoy yourself.' But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life shall be required of you. To whom will all this piled-up wealth of yours go?' That is the way it works with the man who grows rich for himself instead of growing rich in the sight of God."

In recent years, I have noticed a disturbing phenomenon. I have always been amazed at the hype surrounding the Christmas season. It surprises me to see Christmas decorations going up all over the shopping centers the day after Thanksgiving. To top it off, many of them come down the day after Christmas. But did anyone notice what happened this year? The centers were decorated before Thanksgiving. Some companies started advertising gifts for the season in October. Here we are a few days before Christmas. Have we asked ourselves what it's all about? We say that Jesus came to bring life. Yet, in our current atmosphere it seems that life is measured by our possessions. Then we hear in the Gospel that possessions do not guarantee life. Something is wrong.

It was no accident that Jesus was born poor. Having no possessions himself, he could not help but rely on God. Having no possessions himself, he could understand and identify with the poorest of the poor. Having no possessions himself, he could resist the temptation to place his trust and security in the riches of the land. Having no possessions himself, he could respond to the needs of others with all he had--himself.

Jesus stands in sharp contrast to our modern, materialistic society. In so doing, he poses a significant challenge to our accepted way of life. What is at stake is the welfare of all God's people. No one has a right to more than he needs when there are those without necessities. The country we are born in is an accident of birth. It does not give us the right to hoard our own resources or rape the resources of poorer lands. As if Jesus' words weren't enough, we have the marvelous example of his own life. Still, we remain driven by greed.

This greed prevents us from responding to the needs of others. We cannot possibly provide necessities for the poor when we are obsessed with our own wealth and comfort. This is one of those areas where the values of the Christian life coincide with the reality of our world. It is not difficult to see the deprivation in the lives of so many. Nor is it difficult to see a practical response. It is, however, difficult choosing to live according to values which are not espoused by society.

It was reported recently that America discards 1 billion pounds of trash each day--more than twice any other nation--and half of it is food. At the same time, the number of people starving in our world is staggering. I am left with the impression that in spite of the poverty of so many, this Christmas season will be a resounding success for the merchants. But the next time I go to the mall and hear the endless recordings of carols, I will not be singing "Joy to the World."