Dear Faith Family,
I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas!
Do you know what is great about our Church? Although it may seem like Christmas ended on Friday night, our Church loves to celebrate Christmas for weeks, even after we’ve opened our presents and spent time with family. I know I probably write about this frequently, but it’s a good reminder for myself as well.
If we believe in the life changing fact that God became man for our eternal lives, we should extend the party even further! With such a huge event in our lives, it is worth taking time so reflect on the joy of the birth of our savior.
According to the liturgical calendar, Advent actually ends on Christmas Eve. But once that ends, we officially begin celebrating the Christmas season which ends with the celebration of the Baptism of the Lord, which is usually the second Sunday of January.
If the lays out this plan, how should we celebrate? That’s where the beauty of this time really shines, because it is absolutely up to you!
Daily devotions? Sure! Giving yourself an extra deadline to deliver gifts to loved ones? Of course! Baking Cookies in the shape of John the Baptist? Why not?! In whatever way you want to celebrate, feel free to do so. The goal is to hold onto the glory of the Incarnation beyond the scene of the Nativity. Joy should not be confined only within Christmas day. The birth of our Lord should encompass our lives every day of the year.
To be honest, this might be the year to really dive into the joy of our Savior. It’s not a well kept secret, but this year has been difficult. Why not give ourselves a reason to pursue joy even further?
It makes me happy to get Christmas Cards, to see the family pictures, and even to receive the generic year-in-review letters that come in many of them. I know these letters usually give a curated, Facebook kind of glance at people’s lives, but I enjoy them anyway.
This year, though, many of my Christmas letters have started with something along the line of “What a year this has been!” or “We’re all so glad in the Smith family that 2020 is coming to an end!” It’s clear that people haven’t been travelling, or celebrating with big family get-togethers and meals out. It has even noted that the included group photo was actually from last year. People say right up front just how much they miss everyone. Life and death finding a way regardless, baptisms, weddings, graduations and funerals have gone on, as I know firsthand. Often, though, with travel restrictions, if these important events happened at a great distance, they happened without us. Sigh.
There is an authenticity to this. The first Christmas, as portrayed in the Gospels, stripped of our romantic notions, was a story of hardship. Pregnant, completely worn out by travel, in a strange town, and displaced by the crowd, giving birth in a place where animals dwelt – this is no one’s dream of the birth of a baby. We only darken the picture further by pointing out that the Romans were as dark a plague on the face of the earth as the Coronavirus, and were displacing people so that they could know how much to tax their conquered neighbors.
Angels still found reason to sing about it. I hope that you are able to find reasons to sing about it, too.
No matter how dark the world can seem, how painful our bodies get, how much we have to struggle, we are loved by Emmanuel, God with us. Regardless of how politics unfolded, or international relations decayed, or raging wildfires consumed, we are loved by Emmanuel, God with us. In spite of rancorous debate on how to address the pandemic, or the struggle to educate children, and the terrible loss for business owners and employees, we are loved by Emmanuel, God with us.
1924 - 2020
Tuesday, December 29, 2020
Padre Serra Parish
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The Advent season gives us some wonderful scripture readings and this weekend’s seem particularly suited to the time in which we live.
Comfort, give comfort to my people,
says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her
that her service is at an end,
her guilt is expiated;
indeed, she has received from the hand of the LORD
double for all her sins.
Isaiah’s prophecy in the first reading may ring true or false depending on what our experience of 2020 has been, but when we hear it as part of the promise that the Lord would redeem Israel and in light of the reality of Jesus Christ’s presence and action in the world, the truth of it rings clear.
Do you ever succumb to the temptation (as I do) to put off necessary work and growth because of a complacent reliance on God’s mercy and patience? Today’s second reading can help us properly realign. The first part is an encouragement to trust God and to be patient as he is patient: “Do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day. The Lord does not delay his promise, as some regard ‘delay,’ but he is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”
The next sentence deals decisively with the complacency I mentioned: “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a mighty roar and the elements will be dissolved by fire, and the earth and everything done on it will be found out.” So, my friends, what we do and what we say matter: “Since everything is to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought you to be?” “…eager to be found without spot or blemish before him, at peace.”
The mighty Advent figure John the Baptist we encounter in the gospel (this, year, Mark’s) proclaims a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. “One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
John has a healthy understanding of his own place in the scheme of things and so should we. He is content to be a creature, not the Creator; a messenger, not the Message; a humble servant, not the Master.
1940 - 2020
Monday, December 14, 2020
Padre Serra Parish