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Pastor's Letter 20231217 - 17 December 2023 - Third Sunday of Advent

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December 17th, 2023

Third Sunday of Advent


A Message from Father Michael

Today’s Theme:  “My Spirit Finds Joy  In God, My Savior”

Reflections on Today’s Scripture

(Isaiah 61:1-11)  Writing in the period immediately after the joyful exiles had returned home to Israel, from Babylon, Isaiah declared he had been sent by God to usher in the age of salvation.  Jesus used this prophecy to announce the program of His own ministry.  The Wounded Healer best proclaimed the freedom and favor of the Good News.


(1 Thessalonians 5:16-24)  Writing about 50-51 A.D, Paul reveals a sound understanding of psychology, as he told the Thessalonians how they ought to live—“rejoicing,” as they awaited the Second Coming of Christ; not with holiness, but with wholeness in His Church.  All aspects of one’s life must be gathered up into preparing for the Lord’s arrival.  To “rejoice always,” did not mean continual laughter, or a perpetual smile, but to look ahead with hope, for the Messiah’s joyful return.


(John 1:6-28)  As the last, in a long succession of prophets who pointed toward the coming of the Messiah, John the Baptist declared he was not the Savior.  His task was act as witness par excellence, and to prepare the way for Him, Who was already among the people (though they did not recognize Him;) and morally straighten the hearts of his listeners.  Bearing witness to the Light of Truth and Faith, also meant he resisted the temptation to “shine” for his own sake.


Joy and Pleasure

There is a world of difference between joy and pleasure:  

•  Pleasure can be planned—joy cannot.  Joy comes “unexpectedly,” and is all the sweeter, for that.

•  Pleasure is immediate—joy often comes later…and the sweetest joy of all, is that which follows pain. 

•  Pleasure is like a flare in the night sky, brightening everything for a while.  But when it’s over, we may feel darker, and emptier than before. 

•  Joy, on the other hand, is like a bright fire in the hearth: even when it dies, it leaves its warm glow behind….

A Hidden God

John the Baptist told the people, “There stands among you One Whom you do not know.”  That “One,” of course, was Jesus.  God is often referred to as being “hidden.”  In this respect, God might be compared to a “biographer,” whose job is to tell the story, while staying in the background.  A good biographer is everywhere present, but nowhere visible.  

It might be said that God, Himself, might feel lonely, like a child having hidden so well, during a game of “hide and seek,” that no one can find them.  For some, it seems He has hidden Himself so successfully in His creation, they are unable to find Him.  Eventually, they may even quit looking for Him, and go off in different directions….

Even when His Son, our Blessed Lord, Jesus Christ, came to earth, for most of His life He went unrecognized.  Then, when He appeared in public, not everyone believed in Him.  Echoing what John the Baptist said, “There stands among you—unbeknownst to you—the One Who is coming after me.”  In the prologue of his Gospel, John, the Evangelist, also said, sadly, “He was in the world, and the world came to be through Him, but the world did not know Him.” (John 1:10.)

This is where Christmas comes to our aid—the time of year when we are filled with wonder at God’s nearness.  In the incarnation (i.e. having been made man,) God was perfectly hidden…and also perfectly revealed.  In Jesus, God came to us clothed in our humanity.  To see Him is to see the Father (John 14:9.)  

Before the coming of Jesus, God was seen as distant and remote—not really concerned about human beings and their suffering.  Worse still, He was seen as a judge, or a spy, ready to “pounce and punish.”  But since the coming of Jesus, we no longer see God as Someone “remote.”  We see Him as Someone Who is very close to us, and Who is concerned about each of us, because we are His children.  

Jesus revealed God to be a loving, compassionate, and forgiving Father.  He is a God Who is not far away from us, but Who lives among us; and Who is passionately interested in us.  He is a God, whose concern is not to judge and condemn, but to heal and to save.  He is a God Who is especially close to the weak, the poor and the overburdened.

God is like a “spring” within us, from which we can drink and refresh ourselves.  To know God in this way is what gives us our great joy.  It is the joy announced to the shepherds at the first Christmas, and which is announced to us, again, today.  

May God Richly Bless You!


Of the Father's Love Begotten.docx

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Edited by Father Michael
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