Rev. Brian Van Fossen, Pastor – St. Joseph the Worker Roman Catholic Parish,Williamsport.
“I’m gettin’ nuttin’ for Christmas ‘cause I ain’t been nothin’ but bad.” For some reason, this song has been getting more than normal air time on the radio stations. Could it be because of the “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” scandal? Or could it be concern with “Rudolph the Red-nose Reindeer?” Or could it be the violence of “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” causing great alarm? Beside the horrible use of the English language, this song reflects all the reasons why this young man (the song is typically sung by a male voice) should not receive anything for Christmas. To be honest, I can relate to him!
First I must define sin. Sin, defined by the Catechism of the Catholic Church, is “an offense against reason, truth and right conscience; it is failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by a perverse attachment… Sin is an offense against God. Sin sets itself against God’s love for us and turns our hearts away from it. Like the first sin, it is disobedience, a revolt against God through the will to become ‘like gods’” (CCC #1849-1850). As we reflect on the definition of sin, we can all say that we have sinned. Thus, I can relate to the young man singing his song. As I look at the verses of the first song, I cannot say I did everything he did, but I can say I have my own set of verses to add. However, we can also all say that we have not been “nothin’ but bad.”
There is goodness in evey person, even the most hardened criminal. One does not look at a baby and say, “Look how evil the little one looks.” Rather, we look at every child and see the potential for goodness and hope. As a baby is baptized, that child is “buried with Christ through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead to the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life” (Roman 6:4). This newness of life, which is promised in baptism, adds to the hope of potential goodness throughout the child’s life. So, the child is born and is reborn with everything leading him/her to holiness. Then, as it always does, sin enters our lives. The choices we make and some circumstances in which we find ourselves lead us away from this innocence. But here is the other difference for a believer in this song; we are “gettin’ somethin’ for Christmas.”
We receive the greatest gift: a Savior! The world has told us time and time again through this year that if you are a sinner, there is no place for you. If the world deems you a horrible sinner, then there is no place for you. In the words of an “activist” from this past year, “We will hunt you down, find you, and destroy your life.” However, this Christmas we are offered something entirely different: forgiveness and mercy. We are promised “good news of great joy that will be for all the people” and “on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests” (Luke 2:10,14). We are offered a place where shepherds (outcasts) and magi (kings) are welcomed to the manger of the King. We are offered salvation and not condemnation. So, sinner take heart, repent and believe, “for unto us a child is born... a son is given” (Isaiah 9:6). His name is Emmanuel, God is with us! Welcome home!