Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas letter

Christmastime is Here. But I always get That Christmas Feeling reminding me that Christmas is so much more than a Sleigh Ride Over the River and Through the Woods. It involves more than Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, and Jolly Old Saint Nicholas. We Deck the Halls with The Holly and the Ivy, Mistletoe and Holly, Pine Cones and Holly Berries, but we prepare our hearts for more. Do You Hear What I Hear? Ding Dong! Merrily On High, I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day, but they were more than Silver Bells, Silver and Gold Jingle Bells. No, the Carol of the Bells declares much more. As we celebrate Christmas, we are taken back to The First Noel, when, It Came Upon A Midnight Clear on that Silent Night. Away in a Manger, in a Little Town of Bethlehem, In royal David’s City, the world first celebrated the Birthday of a King. Oh Holy Night, When A Child Is Born, willingly saying “From Heaven Above to Earth I Come.” A Savior is Born! Mary’s Boy Child! Sweet Little Jesus Boy! But What Child is This, that While Shepherds Watched, Angels, From the Realms of Glory come to earth to witness this event. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, declaring In excelsis Gloria. Still, Still, Still. It was A Baby Like You and me, only the Son of God, Eternal Savior. Christ is Born in Bethlehem, who is the Greatest Gift of All. The Shepherds Went Their Hasty Way, they declared to Mary, Dear Mother of Jesus, “Angels We Have Heard on High.” The Friendly Beasts, the Little Drummer Boy, and, eventually following the Star of the East, Three Kings of Orient Are all that are present to see this sight. One has to ask of the rest of the world, Do they Know It’s Christmas? Oh Come, All Ye Faithful, O Come Little Children, let us like Good King Wenceslas come Rejoice, The Lord is King. Rejoice, Rejoice All Believers, not just Angels and Shepherds! Joy to the World, Christ is born. Rejoice and be Glad, Rejoice and be Merry. Christmas day is The Most Wonderful Day Of The Year, but it is so much more than a day – it is The Holiday Season that lasts the full The 12 Days of Christmas and all year through. So, We Wish You a Merry Christmas, and ask you to remember that when we sing The Christmas Song, we Sing of God, the Greatest Good. Sing We Noel this Christmas. So Go, Tell It on the Mountain, Up On the Rooftop and everywhere else. Sing the Carol, Raise Your Voices! Come On, Ring Those Bells, ring them until the Jingle Bell Rock. Ring Merrily! Bells will be ringing, and yes, I’ll Be Home for Christmas, too, With Bells On. So God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen and women. Sleep Well, Little Children. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, Rocking Around the Christmas Tree. And Let There Be Peace On Earth, peace made possible by Jesus. This is What Christmas Means To Me. (Hidden among these rambling thoughts are the titles of at least 80 Christmas carols and tunes. Have a Merry Christmas.)

Friday, December 23, 2016

Christmas is a season

Merry Christmas! I hope that this season is one of peace and joy for all. Christmas is a season - it only begins on December 25. The Twelve days of Christmas, of carol fame, begins - not ends - on Christmas day. Indeed, the twelve days ends on the feast of the Epiphany, we we remember three events in which Christ is revealed to the world (the arrival of the Magi, the Baptism of Christ, and the first miracle at the wedding at Cana). Different cultures have different endings of the season culturally, for example marks is through February 2 (the feast of the Presentation), while others end with the official end of the liturgical season on the Baptism of the Lord, this year January 9. There is something profoundly human (and humane) about this. We prepare for Christmas with another season, Advent, to prepare our hearts to celebrate His birth, but also for His glorious return in the Second Coming. In the Church, we need that time to prepare. While not as intense as Lent, it is a season in the Catholic and Orthodox churches marked by prayer and penance (and even fasting by some). But after such preparations, we also need to to celebrate, and do so for more than one day! Why all this preparation and celebration? Because Christmas is so much more than celebrate a birthday, thought true it is that in part. The Church recalls that Christ was born, but also that He will come again, and when better than when we celebrate His first birth. For a deeper understanding of the meaning of His birth, we need look no further that to some of the carols that we sing during this season. Hark the Herald Angels Sing tells us "God and sinners reconciled”. Silent Night proclaims “the dawn of redeeming grace.” The First Noel reminds us that with His [Christ’s] blood mankind hath bought.” Indeed every Christmas hymn (the religious ones, anyway) tell us the story of the Birth and the reason behind it. Clearly, this is no mere child, but is a Divine Being with a heavenly purpose. Being the Second Person of the Holy Trinity (the persons of the the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit in the one Being of God), Jesus took flesh (the Incarnation) in the womb of Mary, and He was born in a humble stable. While some might quibble about the date, the fact is that He was born, and we celebrate that fact. God became Man, became one of us, so that He would lead us to Himself. He was born that He might offer His life to the Father to redeem us. This is the core of the Christian faith, which begins with Christ’s Incarnation and Birth. He came to die on the Cross to bring the Father’s grace and loving presence to us. With that noble purpose, we need much more than one day. So sing long and well those glorious songs of Christmas and share the joy of our salvation with all.

All are called by God to love Him.

All are called to serve Him.

Some are called to special lives of service,

to give witness to God's love through being a priest, religious brother, or sister.

Is He calling you?