Second Sunday of Advent: Whose Christianity?

Grandma Mary Elizabeth McCoy Turck

John the Baptist in Matthew’s Gospel: “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”

I read this and translate: “Do not think you can say to yourselves, “We are good Christians, good Americans.” 

Claiming the name of Christian is not enough. We are judged by the fruit that we bear.

Today—with the rise of Christian Nationalism, Christian racism, Christian anti-semitism, Christian homophobia—claiming the name of Christian looks distinctly unappealing. I don’t want to be in the same church as the haters. I don’t want the same name that they claim. 

And yet, Christian is the name claimed by my parents and grandparents. I do not want to leave them. I do not want to let the haters have their name. 

December 4, the second Sunday of Advent, is my grandma’s birthday. Mary Elizabeth McCoy Turck was born in 1898 and died in 1996. 

I remember Grandma and Grandpa tending their garden. Weeds didn’t stand a chance against their diligence. Their harvests were always bountiful. Even the cherry tree in their yard always gave more cherries than you could possibly eat or turn into pies and jellies. 

Grandma had an uncanny knack for finding the good in everyone. Always kind and gentle, she never had a harsh word for anyone. She would not understand those Christian Nationalists who preach prejudice and fear. Grandma had no time for hate. 

Grandma was an old-school Christian, one who took the commandment to love your neighbor personally. She sewed quilts for the poor. She took food to bereaved families. When someone was sick or in jail, she prayed for them. She prayed for all of us, all of the time. 

Her Christianity, like that cherry tree in her yard, was a tree that bears good fruit. 

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