Hear this, you that trample on the needy,
and bring to ruin the poor of the land,
saying, “When will the new moon be over
so that we may sell grain;
and the sabbath,
so that we may offer wheat for sale?
We will make the ephah small and the shekel great,
and practice deceit with false balances,
buying the poor for silver
and the needy for a pair of sandals,
and selling the sweepings of the wheat.”
The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob:
Surely I will never forget any of their deeds.
Shall not the land tremble on this account,
and everyone mourn who lives in it,
and all of it rise like the Nile,
and be tossed about and sink again, like the Nile of Egypt?
On that day, says the Lord God,
I will make the sun go down at noon,
and darken the earth in broad daylight.
I will turn your feasts into mourning,
and all your songs into lamentation;
I will bring sackcloth on all loins,
and baldness on every head;
I will make it like the mourning for an only son,
and the end of it like a bitter day.
The time is surely coming, says the Lord God,
when I will send a famine on the land;
not a famine of bread, or a thirst for water,
but of hearing the words of the Lord.
They shall wander from sea to sea,
and from north to east;
they shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the Lord,
but they shall not find it.
Who Will you help?
The prophet Amos delivers fierce warnings to God’s people. In chapter 8, he blasts out a furious message from God that rails against trampling on the poor and needy in a heartless quest for profit. It seems some of the people in his time were grumbling against the religious holy days because they interrupted commerce. They were impatient to get back to business, even in some cases to shady business with ruthless tactics.
Cleary, the situation has now flipped, and business and busy-ness control the pace of Advent. Commerce dominates the seasonal messages of our holy days. “What do you want for Christmas?” is the dominant question this time of year.
And yet, just imagine if that mantra were switched from “what do you want” to something like “who will you help this Christmas?” What if we swap some of the objects we want for actions we’ll perform? It might look like this: volunteer at a shelter or nursing home, take a veteran to lunch, invite “holiday orphans” to your Christmas feast, visit homebound people, invite your neighbors to Christmas eve services, call an old friend and revive a friendship, mend fences with an estranged family member, look around you for overlooked people and create a relationship with them, inject kindness into hard situations.
And then, what if we repeat our list frequently throughout the year? What would Amos say to that kind of religious observance? What would Jesus say? What do you say?