Christmas is about Bacon! For some of you this may seem like a self-explanatory statement, because – let’s face it – everyone needs a little more bacon in their life. You take some of the nastiest vegetables and other foods you can imagine, throw in some bacon bits or wrap them in bacon and Boom! You have an explosion of taste bud-defying deliciousness. Think of the world as a nasty pile of vegetables that needs to be transformed, and then here comes little baby Jesus to save the day. Yep, Jesus = bacon. I’d like to take a brief second and apologize if you are a vegetarian reading this. I’m not sure what the healthy non-meat equivalent to bacon is, but if there is such a thing then you can just insert that wherever bacon is mentioned.
I walked into church this morning and was suddenly overwhelmed by the mouthwatering smell of bacon wafting into the sanctuary. It was a holy moment. About mid-service I escaped from the back row of the church where I’d plopped myself down like a good Presbyterian and followed my nose to the source of the bacon. There it was in all its glory, sitting in the middle of a beautiful breakfast sandwich wrapped in wax paper. It was calling to me, but alas the sandwiches were for sale, and I only had a measly 39 cents in my coat pocket. So there we stood like long lost lovers, almost close enough to touch and yet worlds apart.
Then a girl who used to be in my youth group walked in. I hardly recognized her. She was in high school now, all grown up and dressed in her Sunday best. We exchanged pleasantries and then she walked up to the bacon lady (I’m sure that’s not her official title, but it is in my mind) and grabbed a sandwich. All of a sudden she turned toward me, her face radiating with excitement, and asked me if I wanted a breakfast sandwich. Well, when someone offers you bacon there is only one appropriate response: “You better believe it!” She pulled a second five-dollar bill out of her wallet and slapped it down on the counter. With exuberant joy she handed me my buttery bacon, egg and cheese biscuit that oozed with culinary goodness, and then, just like that, she scampered out of the room and was gone before I could wish her a Merry Christmas.
As I made my way back into the service with my prize clutched tightly in my grasp I thought about the little exchange that had just taken place. I saw the young woman’s face, the face of a teenager excited to be able to give. I watched her beautiful smile and her eyes light up as she realized that she was able to use her hard-earned money to share with me. It was a truly pure and spontaneous moment of hospitality. It was simple and yet profound. She gave in a way that I have forgotten how to give. There were no strings attached, no expectations, just the joy of giving. How long has it been since I gave anything like that? How long has it been since I gave a gift without weighing whether or not the person or organization was deserving of my hard-earned money? When was the last time I gave because I just wanted to love my neighbor?
I am humbled by this young woman as I see my own stern, stingy face putting money into the offering basket. I see her smile again, and it is the smile of Jesus as he stared up into the face of Mary. It is the smile of Jesus as he healed the sick and playfully picked up young children and held them in his arms. It is a Christmas smile that reflects the love of God who sent his only son in the ultimate act of selfless giving so that we who were once far from God might be drawn close and become his sons and daughters.
The bacon is gone, its greasy goodness at last wiped off of my beard and the wax paper wadded up and tossed into the wastebasket. The smell of bacon is probably still hovering in the sanctuary, a reminder of the presence of the Holy Spirit and God’s radical, creative love for his people. All those years ago God used a young women giving birth to a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes to show his radical love for the world. This year, just for me, he chose to use a young woman who bought me bacon wrapped in wax paper to remind me that he loves me. God surely has a sense of humor. Who would have thought that this year Christmas would be about bacon?