Christmas – 2017

Christmas Eve SBC 2017

 

Christmas time has come around once more for all Christians, for all Catholics. The Church has put away it’s purple colored vestments and liturgical decorations. The Advent wreath has been taken down. In their place, the chapel sanctuary, where I worship, is strewn with red and white poinsettias, a Christmas tree, with white lights. A manger scene with Mary, Joseph, and the Baby Jesus, has been set up in front of the altar.

 
The chapel quickly fills for our 4:00PM Vigil Mass, and soon it is standing room only. Our guitar choral group leads us in song, we join in singing the old Christmas favorites. We have a guest priest as our celebrant this night, and the sacred liturgy begins. We hear the words of the prophet Isaiah spoken; telling of ancient Israel’s future vindication, and rebirth. Then we hear the Good News from St. Matthew, proclaimed by our celebrant:

 

“18
Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the holy Spirit.
19
Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly.
20
Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord* appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her.
21
She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
22
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:
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“Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,”
which means “God is with us.”
24
When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.
25
He had no relations with her until she bore a son, and he named him Jesus. “ (Matt. 1: 18-25)

 
After hearing how Christ Jesus, though he was Son of God, willingly came into this world as a child, to begin the work of salvation; we are soon witness to another miracle. Christ is made present to us in the form of bread and wine, transformed into his Body and Blood. It was my privilege and honor to help distribute Holy Communion to those who approach. I feel something in my heart, as I hold up each host for the communicant to see, and say with conviction: “The Body of Christ.” And then place the host in the hands of the person, or on their tongue.

 
There the final prayers, and the blessing of the priest; we then sing joyful Christmas songs; celebrating the sacred event that happened in Bethlehem; the sacred moment we just experienced, and leave with the hope of Jesus’ promised return, when a new heaven and a new earth will come to be.

All peace and joy be yours this Christmas day, and God’s blessings on you for the coming year.

Pax et Bonum!

 

Third Sunday of Advent – A Reflection

 

Third Sunday of Advent 2015Zephaniah 3: 14-18a

Philippians 4: 4-7

Luke 3: 10-18

 

 

“Be glad and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem!  The Lord has removed the judgment against you, he has turned away your enemies; the King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst, you have no further misfortune to fear.”  (Zephaniah 3)

“Rejoice in the Lord always.  I shall say it again: rejoice!  Your kindness should be known to all.  The Lord is near.  Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.  Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”  (Philippians 4; 4-7)

 

We are in the third week of the penitential season of the Advent; the time of preparation for day of Christmas, to celebrate the coming of the Son of God into this world.  It is a time of expectation; anticipating the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, at the end of time.  The third candle on the Advent wreath is pink; most priests celebrated Mass this day, wearing pink rose colored vestments.  It is the Church telling us that the time of preparation, of more intensive prayer, of reflecting on Scripture, of ascetic practices are almost at end.

Truth be told, it is hard to live a penitential lifestyle during the days leading up to Christmas.  The somber liturgical purple colors are overwhelmed by the bright colors of red, white, and green.  The bright Christmas lights decorating our city streets, the stores, and our office spaces; yes, even our homes; tell us Christmas is here!  During a time when we are asked to curb our desires, we are encouraged to consume more and more.  Whether it is buying lots of Christmas gifts, or the eating of Christmas candy and pastries, we are told the celebrations start now.

Yet, sometimes I think we are being feed a false message by the merchants, the politicians, and city fathers.  We see in the news of tragic events, the murder of innocents, both at home and abroad; and we experience fear.  We see, and hear, the messages of hate, whether spoken by terrorists, or our politicians, filling the airwaves and the internet.  Many of us are feeling the burden of an uncertain economy, feeling the anxieties of making ends meet, of keeping shelter over our heads.  And we have our own inner anxieties, which keep us up at night.  The “Christmas Season,” only adds to the anxieties.

It is at this moment, we need to hear the booming voice of St. Paul, saying to us: “Rejoice in the Lord always.  I shall say it again: rejoice!” We are not an abandoned people; Emmanuel!  “God is with us!”  The Son of God came into this world to free us from fear; from sin and death!  Jesus Christ has come to give us his Spirit, to cleanse us with fire, to energize us with the fire of the Holy Spirit.  He invites us to enter into an intimate relationship with God, through Scripture, through prayer, and receiving his Body and Blood in the Eucharist.  If we are able to do that, strive to do that, St. Paul promises that our anxieties and our fears will have no power over us: “Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

So we have one more week before Christmas Day, a week to enter again into a time of true preparation to celebrate that wondrous day!  To prepare our minds, our hearts, our souls to hear, really hear, the “Good News” of Jesus Christ.