Today is the Fourth Sunday of Advent, which means … only one week until Christmas! “Huh?” You say, “Not yet, there is too much to do before Christmas!” Well, the thought that Christmas is all but ‘around the corner’ might invoke varying levels of anxiety in the hearts of parents hoping to make this Christmas morning special for their children, especially this year; for engaged- or newly-married couples still looking for that ‘perfect gift;’ and for many more persons ‘praying’ that their on-line purchases arrive on time. Yet, Christians also take another view of Christmas, a view that knows this is more than a day, and so it offers us reason to pause, to ponder and to consider.
We pause. We pause and ‘gaze’ into the Crèche scene set in a special place in our homes to remind us of that very first Christmas when ‘there was no room in the Inn.’ We recall that a cold damp night settled around the Holy Family, finding only a stable, a manger where animals lay, for the birth of their Divine Child. They quietly accepted their circumstances without complaint or regret, without despair or resentment, and only sought to trust all the more that the Heavenly Father ordained these hardships and sufferings, this impoverished way of living, so that His Son could experience what the least among us experience every day. He did this for our sins. Does the thought of this not give us pause to express sincere sorrow for our sins which brought us such a Savior? So much does He love us!
We ponder. We ponder with ‘amazement’ that no lowly place or difficult experience was too much for the Savior to enter into for our salvation. There was no periphery to distant that He would not ‘descend’ into in order to ‘touch’ our poverty, our isolation, our suffering, and so reveal to us the heavenly Father’s closeness and merciful love. He preferred to live a life of absolute humility and selflessness so that the Son of Mary could strengthen and encourage us in our greatest times of need. Does this not give us reason to ponder His great suffering and express our deepest gratitude for His saving us? So much does He love us!
We consider. We consider with ‘awe and wonder’ how it is that we might respond to the deeper invitation of Christmas: “to repent and believe in the Gospel.” Yes, we are called to conversion from a more worldly way of life – however it might be for each of us – and to begin to see anew the Presence of Christ living among us today. It is when we decide to leave our sins behind that the scales fall from our eyes like they did for St. Paul and we begin to understand why like the Angels at that first Christmas we, too, can sing, “Glory to God in the Highest and on earth peace among men.” It’s then that we understand why we want to go forth like the Shepherds, “glorifying and praising GOD.” It certainly is why we yearn to approach the modern day Crèche, Christ-Mass, as did the Magi, “falling down and worshiping Him.” Does this not give us even more reason to be as generous as He was? So much does He love us!
Christmas is all about how much He loves us! It is when we want to ‘make room’ within us for the Christ: in our hearts, in our thoughts, and in our deeds. It is to pause, ponder and consider that Christ is still among us, most perfectly Present in Christ’sMass where we encounter Him perfectly present in the Eucharist, ‘the Bread come down from Heaven’ (John 6:50) so that we ‘may have life and have it abundantly’ (John 10:10). This is the true reason for Christmas, for the Mass, for the Eucharist: that we might have Him in us!
To build the faith is a privilege because we have first experienced the work of the Master Builder within us – trimming and pruning, forgiving and healing, feeding and giving us life – and so we want to give many more the privilege to celebrate Christmas in their own Church where they can come to see Christ in the Eucharist: seeing Him facetoface. Yes, Christmas is coming and gifts will be exchanged, but now we remember again the real reason for giving and the real reason to build the faith: To Give Glory to GOD in the Highest! Little Christina, pray for us!
Fr. Ed was ordained to the priesthood in May 2000 for the Archdiocese of Boston. He was assigned to three different parishes in the Archdiocese from 2000-2010 before his appointment to the Faculty of Saint John’s Seminary, Boston, where he is Dean of Men and Director of Pastoral Formation.
He is also the Spiritual Director & Liaison for the Archdiocese for Catholic Homeschooling Families as well as the Spiritual Director for the World Apostolate of Fatima (Boston Division). He is professed in the Institute of Jesus the Priest of the Pauline Family.