The Season, as it’s known in commercial circles, began in earnest on Friday, even while the turkey feathers were still flying. Can you hear the pleasant jingling sound of cash registers ringing up sales? Oh, wait, it’s all digital now. Sad.
If I want to think fondly about the Christmas season, I turn my thoughts to The Salvation Army, the one church in this country that never loses sight of what the holiday is all about, and focuses its energy on providing aid to the neediest.
No, I’m not a Christian, let alone a Salvationist: if anything, I’m an Omnibulist. But I’ve had the pleasure to know and work with many Salvation Army clergy and laypersons, and they are among the finest, hard-working, most caring and inspirational people I’ve ever met.
I found this typewritten document on the wall of an office in a Salvation Army facility in Gainesville and copied it. Only recently was I able to authenticate it (the link is provided below). I haul it out now and then to reread, especially when preparing to meet with prospective clients with the idea that I can somehow share General Booth’s indomitable spirit and commitment with them. I usually fail. But then, well, read on…..
1910 Sermon by William Booth
Founder, The Salvation Army
I am glad you are enjoying yourselves. The Salvationist is the friend of happiness. Making Heaven on Earth is our business. Serve the Lord with gladness is one of our favourite mottoes.
So I am pleased that you are pleased.
But amidst all your joys don’t forget the sons and daughters of misery. Did you ever visit them? Come away and let us make a call or two.
Here is a home, six in a family. They eat and drink and sleep and sicken and die in the same chamber.
Here is a drunkard’s hovel, void of furniture, wife a skeleton, children in rags, Father maltreating the victims of his neglect.
Here are the unemployed, wandering about, seeking work and finding none.
Yonder are the wretched criminals cradled in crime, passing in and out of prison all the time.
There are the daughters of shame, diseased and wrong and ruined, traveling down the dark incline to an early grave.
There are the children, fighting in the gutter, going hungry to school, growing up to fill their parents’ places.
Brought it all on themselves, do you say? Perhaps so, but that does not excuse us from assisting them.
You don’t demand a certificate of virtue before you drag some drowning creature out of the water, nor the assurance that a man has paid his rent before you deliver him from the burning building.
But what shall we do? Content ourselves by singing a hymn, offering a prayer, or giving a little good advice?
NO! Ten Thousand Times, NO!
We will pity them, feed them, reclaim them, employ them. Perhaps we shall fail, and many times, quite likely. But our business is to help them all the same, and that in the most practical, economical, and Christ-like manner.
So let us hasten to the rescue for the sake of our own peace, the poor wretches themselves, the innocent children, and the Saviour of us all.
But you must help with the means. And, as there is nothing like the present, who in this company will lend a hand by taking up the collection?