It can be difficult sitting in your house fasting for Christmas when all your friends are out partying it up until all hours of the night. It can be difficult being a restaurant this time of year with your friends being able only to eat a few menu items. It’s the holiday season, and that normally means PARTY! But, for us Orthodox, it means prayer and fasting. This is the season I feel most like an outsider among my friends.
Don’t get me wrong. There isn’t anything sinful about eating meat. There isn’t anything sinful about attending holiday parties with your friends. It isn’t about sin, it’s about preparation! Take a moment and read today’s Gospel lesson.
The Lord said, "As it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of man. They ate, they drank, they married, they were given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. Likewise as it was in the days of Lot -- they ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built, but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom fire and sulphur rained from heaven and destroyed them all -- so will it be on the day when the Son of man is revealed. On that day, let him who is on the housetop, with his goods in the house, not come down to take them away; and likewise let him who is in the field not turn back. Remember Lot's wife. Whoever seeks to gain his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will preserve it. I tell you, in that night there will be two in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. There will be two women grinding together; one will be taken and the other left." And they said to him, "Where, Lord?" He said to them, "Where the body is, there the eagles will be gathered together. Nevertheless, when the Son of man comes, will he find faith on earth?" – Luke 17.26-37, 18.8
What makes me feel the most like an outsider this time of year, is that most of my friends are living IN the moment, and not paying attention to the preparation their soul needs for heaven. Heaven won’t be a place filled with jingle bells and holly branches. Please understand. I’m not perfect. I’m a sinner just like the rest of my friends, but sometimes it just ‘feels’ like nobody is even trying.
I think that’s the warning God is giving us today in this Gospel story. Pay attention to what your soul needs, and not just want makes your body feel good. If we can make that sort of shift this year in our Christmas preparations, we will have made a eternity’s worth of choices.