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Pastor's Letter 20191222 - 22 December 2019 - Preparing for Christmas


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22 December 2019

Fourth Sunday of Advent

A Message from Father † Michael

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Today’s Theme:

“Preparing for Christmas”

Scripture Note

The Liturgy of the Word today deals with “The One Who is to come.” Isaiah vaguely glimpsed the identity of the “child” in our First Reading (Isaiah 7:10-14.)Foretelling the coming of a very special Child to be called “Immanuel,”—God-With-Us—there is no reason to believe that he knew just how special that Child would be. (No prophecy is fully understood until after its fulfillment.)

In our Second Reading, Paul draws the Romans’ attention to Jesus’ human and divine roots (Romans 1:1-7.) Both Paul and Matthew make it clear that Jesus was the Son of David—because he was descended from Joseph, his legal father (Matthew 1:18- 25.) But, of course, He was more than that—He was the Son of God!

Matthew’s genesis, or origin account of Christ shares a family history that might seem monotonous at a glance (Matthew 1:1-17.) Moreover, at face value, his opening genealogy is a fiction, (in the sense that Jesus shares no biological relationship to Joseph and the 14 generations that preceded Him.)Nonetheless, we do find numerous examples of people within Jesus’ lineage who were totally reprehensible in their lives—beginning with Abraham, the father of nations, through David, the royal king—and many others who, at times, acted far from “saintly.” However, each repented for their sins, and in turn, received the Lord’s favor throughout the family descent. It is in this that we stake our claim for forgiveness for our misdeeds, promised by Jesus, when we sincerely repent. Therefore, we see in Matthew’s family tree achronological reasoning establishing Jewish roots for Jesus, offering a telescopic view of God’s enduring redemptive work among the people of God.

Debating Christmas

When we consider the seasonal celebration of the Christmas holy days (“holidays?”) each year, it is not uncommon to uncover pockets of dissent among people. Those who may have been avid participants in seasonal festivities throughout their lives may later take a contrary view to what they believe may has become a totally commercial enterprise for most people.  We often hear Christmas has “...nothing to do with the birth of Christ, and should, therefore, be abandoned!” Exponents claim Christmas is little more than a “spending spree” for those who can afford it. They think of the gifts, decorations, food, drink, parties and so on, purporting the season is only of benefit to merchants who laugh “all the way to the bank.”

While most businesses catering to the gift-buying public count on the Christmas season for a large portion of their yearly gross sales, no one is forced to buy anything.... In any case, most of the things people buy are given to others. Having said that, one could hardly disagree that commerce has taken center stage in the minds of most people. This aspect disturbs many who cherish the real meaning of Christmas, so it’s quite human to expect inevitable abuses. If you open a window to allow fresh air to flow, flies will come in, too.

Increased instances of eating and drinking are commonly reported around holidays, and for some people, they’re simply another excuse to indulge. Nonetheless, Christmas is not a cause of people’s excesses, nor is it a time for “long faces.” It’s a time for joy and celebration, as attested to the songs of the angels: “Glory to God in the highest...” etc.—some of the sweetest music on earth.

Other human extravagances and the myriad travels made to gather with family and friends, often lead to a host of family tension, squabbles and even traffic accidents. Encouraging selfishness, especially in children, is another common complaint about this season. But isn’t it true that the spirit of the season also causes the best in people to be displayed? Generosity is encouraged; heartfelt giving to the poor, the needy and the lonely is commonplace during this time. In fact, more charity is given to people during the Christmas season than at any other time of year.  As regards children, the birth of the Christ-Child makes us realize how precious they are. It’s only natural to concentrate on their happiness; after all, they grow up so quickly!

Without doubt, Christmas inspires dramatic expressions of goodwill. Barriers between people are dismantled, and a good deal of togetherness results. Neighbors reach across fences to greet each other, and people forgotten during the rest of the year are fondly remembered. Scattered families are reunited. Even though it doesn’t last as long one might like, at least it shows us the way we ought to go. Surely it’s better to glimpse the light than to live in perpetual darkness!

Religion, as a whole, gets a mixed review during the Christmas holidays, as the spiritual sometimes is relegated to second place. However, it does act as a “spiritual tonic” for many people. Churches boast record attendance during this period, and many prodigals “return to God.” Christmas prepares a way for the Lord to come to us. Since the coming of Christ, a bright fire has been burning and the glow of human fellowship has ignited in the hearts of mankind. The warmth of God’s love, expressed in the fellowship of loving human beings beckons many to come to the feast.

Even though the headlines remain crowded with reports of human strife in our crises-addled world, and it may seem there is little room for Christ within it, we must remember that there was very little welcome for Christ when He came to earth, the first time! When all is said and done, Christmas recalls the greatest event in history, namely, the Incarnation—when God’s Son came down on earth to confer upon humanity the dignity of the Children of God. We must not deprive a world drowning in bad news from hearing the Good News of Jesus.

Fear at Christmas

Some people fear, perhaps even dread the approach of Christmas. But it’s not Christmas itself that sparks this fear—at least not the religious side of it. The source of their fear lies elsewhere.  For some, it’s the perceived “hassle” and extra work that makes them fearful. For others, it’s the strain on already overstretched finances causing trepidation. Most of us feel the pressure of other people’s expectations upon us, and conflicts that often arise between family members. For some, a rekindling of painful memories can bring on something akin to depression, when they remember tragedy or death. When there has been a loss associated with Christmas, the sight of others surrounded by loved ones can reopen wounds, maybe just beginning to heal. The resulting intense loneliness can be crippling. Still others fear advancing age, with its infirmities and palpable mortality.

But those in fear can take heart and hope from the story of the first Christmas. Most of the characters in that story were afraid at one time or other: Joseph certainly was afraid when he learned Mary was expecting a child—even though they hadn’t lived as man and wife. The angel’s appearance to him was of great comfort, surely, advising him of the truth of the matter, but it probably didn’t alleve all his concerns; Mary most likely was most fearful of all. A young virgin in a closed society becoming pregnant in a mysterious manner would have brought her great shame and misgivings. Her acquiescence to Gabriel’s message—her “fiat”—was the most important agreement ever made by a human being; and how could simple shepherds avoid being fearful at the sight of an astronomical event and heavenly choirs?

We all are all touched by fears, but we must move from fear to faith! It is in this realm that Christmas is the most help. It’s easier to trust in God at Christmas than any other time, because we feel His closeness and love. After all, He came in the form of a sweet Child—something none of us fear!  Each of us is challenged to enter into an intimate relationship with God, and trust that we have been given His love—unconditionally. Having done all we can to improve our individual situations, by sincerely making the most prudent choices at our disposal, we can then leave what is outside our control “in His hands.”

May God Richly Bless You!

Out of the Darkness, Into the Light: The Time before Christmas is the Time of Light and mutual Love.”

Sir Kristian Goldmund Aumann—24 Days Until Christmas: 24 Christmas Poems

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Edited by Father Michael
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