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Faith Lens

December 10-17, 2008 – Ring those bells!

Warm-up Question: Have you seen the Salvation Army Bell Ringers? Do you toss something in the kettle? Why or why not?

Have you seen them out there? The Salvation Army Red Kettle Bell Ringers? Volunteers who stand on corners every Christmas season, in front of grocery stores, malls, and convenience stores ringing bells hoping to have some change dropped in. Have you wondered, what’s it for; how did it all begin?

The Salvation Army church and charity began in England in 1865, seeking to reach out to the marginalized in society; alcoholics, drug dealers, and prostitutes. Today the Salvation Army is most recognized by its Christmas Red Kettle Campaign. The ‘kettle’ started in 1891 in San Francisco, CA by Salvation Army Officer Captain Joseph McFee to raise money for Christmas dinners for the poor in San Francisco. Originally, a crab pot was hung from a tripod and passerby’s were encouraged to ‘keep the pot boiling’ by donating to the fund designated to feed the poor.

Since it’s inception, the red kettles have sought to raise money for the poor each Christmas season, using the donations to purchase toys for children, provide meals and assistance to the poor, and provide utility and home subsidization, disaster relief, drug treatment, and senior and child care to families in need. Since 2004, the campaign has brought in nearly 100 million dollars a year to fund these projects. The Salvation Army has helped 37 million people, and 83 cents of every dollar goes directly to those who are in need of it.

Next time you hear those bells you will know their story, its rich history, and think about the Christ-centered impact that it makes on our world and communities. It’s an announcement that tells us “Christmas is coming. Take care of those who need Christ’s promises and hope most of all.”

Discussion Questions

  • Have you ever donated to the red kettle campaign or wondered where the money went?
  • What do you think of the volunteers who patiently ring the bells? Imagine that you were ringing the Salvation Army bells. How would you feel? What would you hope for or think as people passed back and forth by you as they shopped?
  • Given the downturn of our economy, how important do you feel it is to give this Christmas season? To think of the needs of others?

Scripture Texts (NRSV) for Sunday, December 14, 2008.
(Text links are to oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year B at Lectionary Readings.)

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.

Gospel Reflection

In the Gospel we find John the Baptist ringing those bells. Not literally of course. He was proclaiming the excitement of the one to come after him, our Lord Jesus Christ. People knew John was sent from God. Their curiosity was peaked as they saw what this man was doing and saying. The priests and the Levites came to question his intentions. “Who are you?” they asked. They wanted to know why he was baptizing people. John told them, “I am the voice on one crying out in the wilderness, make straight the way of the Lord.”

John the Baptist shared of the one who was to come after him and proclaimed that he was not worthy to untie his sandals, like the red kettle bell ringers who remind us of Christ’s good news to come during the hurried Christmas season. John the Baptist was the proclamation of that time, baptizing and proclaiming to Jewish leaders of the time that the Messiah was coming and the world was about to change.

Discussion Questions

  • How do you feel the anticipation of Christ’s presence during this holiday season?
  • How do you imagine the priests and Levite’s responded to John’s proclamation, especially since he was not one of them?
  • What can you do to proclaim Christ’s message to help the marginalized and needy in your community? What good news and actions are needed most right now?

Activity Suggestions

Volunteer to ring the bells this Christmas season get on the Web site to sign up to volunteer.

Keep in mind and in front of everything else going on around you the needs of people in your community and in other places of the world. Create a prayer list for your group to use. Create an action list of things you can do individually and as a group to be Christ’s good news and hope in the world, especially for those in need. Learn more about what you can do through the ELCA Web sites:

Closing Prayer

Blessed Savior, we anticipate your birth with great excitement and promise. Thank you for coming to greet us through your humble birth. Help us to extend that gratitude and kindness to those who need to hear and experience hope, faith, and salvation. Bless those who feel like they live their lives on the fringe. Enable us to extend graciousness and generosity to their lives. In your name we pray. Amen.

Contributed by

Angie Larson
Clive, IA