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Contents: Volume 2 - Fourth Sunday of Advent December 23 and Christmas 2018


 

The 4th

SUNDAY

of

ADVENT

 

1. -- Deacon Russ O'Neill

2. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP

3. -- Carol & Dennis Keller

4. -- Brian Gleeson CP

5. --(Your reflection can be here!)

 

 

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1. NEW CONTRIBUTOR - Deacon Russ O'Neill - Advent 4C

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4th Sunday of Advent.

Did you ever leap for joy? I mean, REALLY leap for joy? I think I may have a few times - the day I got married and the day each of my children were born. But for most of us, it doesn't happen all that often. Children leap at simple joys - while playing a game, or learning how to build with blocks, or putting a puzzle together. Many of our children will literally leap for joy Christmas morning. Haven't you seen older children jump for joy when they get an A on a science project, or score the winning touchdown, or when the final act is applauded at the school play? These are those moments when they say, "YES!" Somehow, as we get older, we tend to miss some of those moments . . . we don't leap for joy all that often.

In today's Gospel, the very first presence of Jesus in his mother's womb causes the baby in Elizabeth's womb to leap for joy. Mary, a virgin, carrying Jesus. Elizabeth, old and sterile, carrying John the Baptist. A Gospel filled with joy. As we come to the end of Advent, we are not waiting for something that has already happened. We are not waiting for the baby Jesus to be born. Rather, I think, Advent and Christmas call us to take time to be in touch, in touch with Jesus, the Word made flesh - OUR flesh; in touch with God's love for us; in touch with Jesus continuing to become alive and present today in and through us. Advent and Christmas call us to become more conscious of our yearning for joy and peace and justice, and more conscious of our mission to promote that peace and justice. They call us to see where we encounter the Lord - not as a little baby in a manger, but in ourselves, in one another, in the poor and defenseless, in those whom society sees as "unimportant." Advent and Christmas call us to jump for joy, to jump for the new possibilities in the unfolding of life!

As we have experienced Advent, we have also experienced winter - darkness, cold weather, and a lifeless landscape. Sometimes our lives can feel like that as well - with strained relationships, with schedules pulling us between work and family, with illness or loneliness raising its ugly head, with society and the media telling us that if we just have all the right things we will be happy. Winter strikes in the human heart a yearning for light, for warmth, for festivity. Perhaps that’s why we have lights on trees, on houses, on mantles, candles and fireplaces warmly lit. This weekend - more than any other - we can experience this yearning and make it a reality. Perhaps this week, we, like Mary, can bring light, warmth, gladness and joy to others, can BE warmth, gladness and joy to others. I imagine many of us will be busy today with last minute shopping, gift wrapping, baking, and many other odds and ends. It can be exhausting. But it can also be a time to renew the Lord's presence in our hearts and in our life, a renewal that can truly cause us to jump for joy. But will we be too tired, too frazzled, too conscious of money spent and things still undone to even realize his presence, let alone jump for joy?

Although the busyness of our lives may cause our leaps of joy to be too infrequent, most of us do, at times, experience that joy - perhaps not physically, but internally when we have one of those "YES" moments of wonder. It may be during a sunset, or a special song; at weddings, births, and even during a eulogy at a loved one's funeral. These are spiritual experiences, moments of faith that bring us in touch with God and have such great meaning for us. In fact, aren't most of our truly joyful moments - our "YES" moments - spiritual moments, moments of love, moments of faith? There are more of those moments than we realize - we just have to recognize them, seize them and treasure them.

Shortly, we will together approach this table and share in the Eucharist, in the special meal of the Lord's Supper. And the Christ of Christmas will be one with us. And we pray that the body and blood of Jesus on the altar - and this community which is also the body and blood of Jesus - will give us the strength and courage to take Jesus to the world - No, to BE Jesus to the world. For Christ calls each of us to be a bringer of peace, an establisher of justice, a lover of righteousness, a despiser of wickedness, a source of joy, a light shining in the darkness, warmth and life to a cold, suffering world.

As busy as we are, let’s take time today and this week to focus on Jesus within us, to allow ourselves to have a moment of faith, a spiritual experience when we believe that God is present to us and within us, and this is what we have waited for. And if we do, perhaps our hearts will leap for joy. And as we take Jesus to our families, our workplaces, our neighborhoods, our world, may the people we meet - at the sound of our greeting - leap for joy! And that’s the best gift we can give them.

Deacon Russ O'Neill russon2330@sbcglobal.net

 

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2. Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP Advent 4C

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Advent 4C

The Gospel reading today is the story of the Visitation. We read/hear of a young, pregnant Mary "traveling to the hill country in haste" to visit a much older and pregnant Elizabeth. Both women were the recipients of great miracles, miracles acknowledged by each of them at this visit. No doubt they pondered and prayed about what their lives would hold!

How often is it that we recognize and rejoice in the miracles of the Almighty in our lives? Perhaps we might, in hindsight, credit the Hand of God in a "big" event, perhaps one that was a turning point in our lives. Day to day, however, I think most of us muddle along, sometimes aware of the opportunities given to us and the blessings that accompany our yielding to the "will of the Father"... but most of the time not.

My 10 year old granddaughter has checked out every "Mary" book she could find from her school and the public library. I haven't read along with her (but should have) so I am often amazed at some of the details she "knows" that perhaps are a bit more legendary than scriptural. She has recently won an Archdiocesan contest for elementary students for her essay "What Mary Means to Me". Her love of Mary has soared, herself still a young girl trying to figure out her place in this topsy-turvy often chaotic world that frequently mocks sacrifice and sometimes pretends that truth doesn't matter or even exist.

Mother Mary is simply an incredible role model not only for young girls and women, but for every person on the face of the earth. As a woman, mother, and grandmother, I can fully understand angst over a surprised pregnancy, a missing child or witnessing the pain and suffering of one's adult child. Regardless of gender, we all can sympathize with the hardships of Mary's life in some fashion. We can all definitely admire and strive to replicate the unconditional trust Mary exemplified and of which Elizabeth spoke when she said "Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled."

The Scriptures are full of the Lord's promises, spoken long ago and each day forward to each of us. Do we believe that we are the Lord's "beloved" in spite of whatever our circumstances are right now? Can we, will we believe that the goodness for which we were created will come to be? Mary did and, through her intercession, we can and will believe and witness what the Lord will fulfill through us.

Mary's world was more than chaotic for her. Contemplating her own uncertainty, a probably confused Mary nonetheless left her husband-to-be and comfort of her immediate family to care for an elderly relative in her time of need. Can we put our own legitimate worries aside and when we "see a need, fill that need" (as my pastor suggested)?

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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3. Carol & Dennis Keller - Advent 4C and Christmas

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Fourth Sunday of Advent December 23 2018

Micah 5:1-4; Responsorial Psalm 80; Letter to Hebrews 10:5-10; Gospel Acclamation Luke 1:28; Luke 1:39-45

This last Sunday of Advent is the set-up for the mysterious and awe-inspiring celebration of the birth of the Son of God into the very creation the Son, with the Father and the Spirit, created. The readings this Sunday shake the typical way we think about God and creation into the ash pit. Human living, living most fully and completely in the depths of what we are and who we are is typically thought to be about a life of prestige, of comfort, of control, and basking in the adulation of crowds. In order to achieve such lofty status we behave like hamsters on their wheels – rushing, rushing, hurrying, scurrying, wearing ourselves out as we run in circles with our goals always out of reach. There is so very little in the human endeavor that brings us lasting satisfaction. There is always one more promotion, one more purchase, one more trip, one more challenge to overcome. There is always one more experience that we think will satisfy us. There is always the thought that security - security is salvation by another word – comes to us when we hold control over the events, people, economics, and direction of our living.

Yet the hope filled readings this Sunday are not about control. In the first reading, Bethlehem is described as so insignificant that when the clans of the tribe of Judah gather, there is no special table for them. There is no announcement from the podium of their presence. Yet, Micah recalls it was the little town of Bethlehem from which David, that idealized leader and king, came to the brothers, the sons of Jacob from ancient times. It was he that molded and shaped the People of God into a nation. But those were the ancient times. As with so much of what is human, the glory of Mount Sion in the grand city of Jerusalem fell into decay and disorder. The book of Micah is a diatribe against the rulers of his time who were filled with corruption. Those rulers served their own wants and needs and brought division and chaos to the nation. Micah’s prophecy speaks of a woman about to give birth to one who will call back all those who have been scattered because of the evil of Judah’s rulers. The lost will return home to family. Those alienated from their brothers and sisters will be reunited with quiet delight. The family will be together, called there by this one born, shepherded into a pasture flowing with sweet spring water and covered with lush grasses. The nation will come together as family and held secure – in safety and salvation -- by the power of the peace he brings.

What a wonderful description of our hopes about Christmas! We gather as families, we resolve the differences among us and come together in peace that only love can bring. Micah’s vision lacks any mention of power, of wealth, of control, or even of a hero. It only speaks of all returning home by the strength of the Lord, the one who is shepherd. That constantly repeated image of shepherd enriches all descriptions of the experience of the Hebrew People. Their vision is always about a wonderful, caring, and uniting shepherd.

Is this why Christmas is about family? Is this why images of tables of plenty, of cousins, uncles, aunts, brothers and sisters and parents so much a part of our imaging Christmas?

The letter to the Hebrews throws another twist to our human thinking. We’d like to think we have some control over the Shepherd, the Lord who guides us. By gifts, by sacrifices, by devote and humble prayer to the most High we think to influence the Divine’s work on our behalf. We think of God changing our circumstances. What the author to Hebrews insists is that God doesn’t change our circumstances – GOD CHANGES US so that we can take on the challenges of living and grow. Not only in good things but also in the bad things that come our way, God lends us inspiration and wisdom to discover and follow his way to solutions.

Much of the bloody sacrifices and holocausts, the sin offerings of pagan religious practices were meant to control the gods. Bad fortune would be removed and enemies defeated under these superstitious practices. The gods were thought to control all things and those gods were human like in their capricious and licentious behaviors. Religious practice was an effort to eliminate the fear of the gods’ wrath and unpredictable behavior. Yet the author of the Letter to the Hebrews insists God is not swayed by sacrifice. He has no desire for blood animals or the smoke of incense or the pouring out of sweet wines. The Christ, the anointed one, models for us how we should live in peace and with satisfaction. His very presence among us, his creation, is proof that God loves us and never ignores our freedom and always values our lives. This Christ shows by example that the gift of our living is indicative of God’s will for us. His will is that we flourish and thrive – even in adversity.

The words in the last segment of this selection for Sunday summarize how we worship as Christians. The words combine the words of the Christ and commentary of the author. " ‘Sacrifices and offerings you neither desired or delighted in.’ These are offered according to the law. ‘I come to do your will.’ He takes away the first to establish the second. By this will we have all been consecrated through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all."

This letter to the Hebrews tells us that the Law of sacrifice and holocaust is given over to a different relationship with our Creator. Any fear of God’s wrath meant to be placated by sacrifice gives way to joy for the gift of life. This way of living is all encompassing. Living the Will of God has nothing to do with fear. Fear is removed from the relationship of creation to its creator. In the place of fear comes awe at the magnificence, the wisdom, and the unconditional love we discover when we find God. It is unfortunate that translations of the Hebrew Scriptures use the word fear in the statement that "the beginning of wisdom is fear of the Lord." Much better and more clearly the word "fear" in that statement should have been "awe and wonder." With the Christ as our guide we live what we are created to be. When we become simple in our living, when we embrace the simplicity of a life that welcomes God as patron "we come round right." Those are the words of the 1848 Shaker hymn of Elder Joseph Brackett. "It’s a gift to be simple, it’s a gift to be free, it’s a gift to come down where we ought to be. And when we find ourselves in the place just right, we’ll be in the valley of love and delight." Amen to that!

When we lose our pretentions of greatness, when we eliminate our fear of failure, when we let go of our need for accumulations, for power over others, and for the adulations of a crowd, we become what we ought to be. We become living beings with the freedom to discover the depths and wonders of what we are. And in discovering ourselves, we find unlimited room for the appreciation and love and compassion for all others. There is no limit to our caring. Race, or creed, or power, or wealth, or gender, or gender preference, or language cannot separate us. There is only within our hearts guided by God’s own words an acceptance of ourselves as works in progress and our neighbors as ourselves.

When we hear the gospel narrative from Luke this last Sunday of Advent, we have examples of the simplicity of Brackett’s hymn. Mary, probably a little frightened by the visitation from the angel and her condition, visits a trusted cousin. These two very simple women of the hill country of Galilee meet and share with each other the wonder of what is happening within their bodies. For the aged Elizabeth this pregnancy would have been trying. Yet the joy exchanged between these two women is evident in Luke’s well-chosen words. In the end of this gospel passage Luke’s words are words we apply to our personal and communal condition. "Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled."

If our coming celebration is about coming together, about listening to each other, about finding peace in the depths of our hearts and minds, then we have within us the very Christ who comes to bring us peace. We are reminded this season that we are gifted with the wonder of life. We are reminded that we are free to choose how we live and what we work at becoming through family, through work, through community, and through the growth of our hearts and minds. We should wallow in this peace and allow it to trim away the concerns and terrors that surround us. For our shepherd is the Lord. His greatness is a beacon to us, his brothers and sisters, that life is good. It is the will of God that we flourish and grow toward Him who is the source, the goal, and the fullness of what we can be and what we are. This is our hope in this season: this is why we are joy-filled.

The Responsorial Psalm should be our prayer this last week of Advent. We sing together, "Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved." When we turn to the Lord and see his face we discover God’s will for us. We discover the meaning and purpose of life. There is a short time till we celebrate the birth of the Christ in his creation. May we prepare for his coming and influence by removing that which tears us down: that we eliminate fear: that we delight in life given and freedom extended: that we level the hills and fill in the gorges and open springs in the desert areas of our living and welcome the guide, the shepherd who shows the way by his words and his works. May it be so!


Christmas December 25 2018

Vigil Mass: Isaiah 62:1-5 Responsorial Psalm 89; Acts 13:16- 17 & 22-25; Matthew 1:1-25

Midnight Mass: Isaiah 9:1-6; Responsorial Psalm 96; Titus 2:11-14; Gospel Acclamation Luke 2:10-11; Luke 2:1-14

Mass at Dawn: Isaiah 62:11-12; Responsorial Psalm 97; Titus 3:4-7; Gospel Acclamation Luke 2:14; Luke 2:15-20

Mass During the Day: Isaiah 52:7-10; Responsorial Psalm 98; Hebrews 1:1-6; John 1:1-18

There are just too many options for Christmas Scriptures!!! Too many to make a short reflection! The richness of those texts, the hope, the spirit of peaceful acceptance, the relief of burdens lifted and the expansion of horizons of possibility for individual and communal life are all contained in these four liturgies of the Word. Our recommendation is that each person takes an hour out of their busy preparations to be quiet in the Words written. Let these words flood your thinking and open your personal thoughts regarding your relationships to the peace and completeness described in these four liturgies of the Word.

An hour’s focus will open hearts and minds to new understandings of individual paths to happiness and completeness. If we review the past year we’ll find times when we were less than happy. There would be times when the stress of living in the modern world overwhelmed us and cause us to struggle and be angry and to be snappy with others. Our thoughts and perhaps our actions fell into violence toward ourselves and to others and to creation. We can ask ourselves a very simple question about our trajectory, our operative methods; "How well did those attitudes and efforts work for us?"

Midnight night mass readings are a beacon for us. "The people who walk in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone." What is that great light? What changes and vision we discover when the shadows of the past are suddenly and irrevocably show to be what they are? A once popular song begins, "I can see clearly now!" What is it we see? It is a simple birth, in a simple place, with simple people experiencing extraordinary things.

At the vigil mass liturgy of the Word we endure Matthew’s long, long, long genealogy. I recall thinking to myself, "Enough already. So Jesus was born from a long, long, long line of people. Cut to the chase: tell the story." Matthew indeed tells the story. Among the progenitors he has the boldness to include four women. How strange those women are included as important progenitors of the Christ in the scriptures which stress patriarchy! First there is Tamar who posed as a prostitute and became pregnant by her father-in-law who had refused to marry her to another son when her husband died leaving her childless. Then there is Rahab, a pagan who sheltered Hebrew spies in Jericho before its destruction. Then there is Ruth, another pagan, whose loyalty and support of her mother-in-law are inspiration to all families. Then finally there is Mary who is the mother of God. There are three sets of fourteen progenitors. Three is a number of completeness. Matthew tells us that we have entered the final age of time. In this time all will be completed of creation, all will be finished.

The reading from the prophet Isaiah proclaimed at the Mass during the day is a summation of human history. God is the God of that history. Isaiah paints for us a picture of a breathless, exhausted messenger who has traveled the mountains to bring a message of joy to the city, to the nation, to the world. "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings glad tidings, announcing peace, bearing good news, announcing salvation, and saying to Zion, ‘Your Lord is King.’" We aren’t much stirred by images of kings, of lords and ladies. But we can certainly understand the joy with the announcement of peace. What a grand spectacle it would be if all Television and cable news would declare "breaking news". That peace has broken out – that soldiers would return home to their families, that billions upon billions of dollars could now be turned to developing that which needs developing, repairing what has gotten pushed aside. How wonderful it would be if Syria would find peace that embraced the diversity of its people – that this cradle of Christianity would once again be welcoming to its own refugees. How wonderful it would be If Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Somalia, the Congo, El Salvador, all of Central America, China, and North Korea would step down from war and work for the welfare of all its peoples and in union with the rest of the world. How much we should celebrate if in our country we would embrace diversity instead of using our differences to divide us into warring camps for selfish purposes and for unnecessary and vulgar power! May it be so, that hearts and minds would repent!

The final gospel for this Christmas Day is one that sends chills down my back. It is a complete history of God’s creation. We think often that Christmas is an answer to the sins of humanity. But this prologue to John’s gospel is a description of the new creation in which common wash-water is turned into delightful wine, what is broken is mended, and all persons find a place at the banquet – both now and in eternity. It is John’s gospel alone which describes the event of the last supper when Jesus, the Divine Word born for us as one of us, wraps a towel around his waist and washes the stinky, dirty feet of his followers. Service to others is the Way. When the hills of our arrogance are made low and the crevices and gorges of our self-centered selfishness are filled in, when the desert of our chained spirits sprouts fresh water abundant personal life escapes its bounds, blooming, blossoming with fruit – then the world, then the universe is in its final stage of completion. For "in the beginning was the Word." And in the fullness of time that

"Word was made flesh" and everything changed. It is only for us to hear the announcement of the one whose feet carried him over the mountains to our home Zion and to rejoice. Our rejoicing, our merry making, our delight is not one day only. It permeates every second, every minute, every day, week, month, and years of our lives when we hear the message and change our hearts and minds to receive it.

May the peace of the Christ born of the Father before all time and the agent-Word of creation, come into our hearts this grand day of celebration and remain with us in all the moments of our celebration. May our celebration continue from this day forth to all the seconds of our living and lift us up with hope, with love, with faith, and with delightful joy.

May it ever be so!

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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4. Brian Gleeson CP Advent 4C and Christmas

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SHARING THE WORLD OF WOMEN: 4TH SUNDAY ADVENT C

Luke today brings us into the world of women. One is Elizabeth, an older woman, who through the power of God is carrying a child to be known as ‘John the Baptist’. The second woman is Mary, a teenager and the cousin of the older woman. She too, through the power of the Holy Spirit, is carrying a child, who will be called ‘Jesus’, a name which means ‘God saves’. Luke stresses that although the two women see themselves as little, lowly and humble, in the mind and plan of God they are great and important. So we follow the details of their meeting with each other with much interest and listen carefully to their conversation.

It’s important that Luke names the older woman ‘Elizabeth’, since many women in the bible are not named at all. They are referred to simply as ‘mother’, ‘daughter’, ‘wife’ or ‘woman’. They are identified, in fact, only in relation to some man who is named. For example, we never learn the name of Peter’s mother-in-law, whose fever Jesus cured. She is just ‘Peter’s mother-in-law’. In the bible, someone’s name often tells us something important about the person. Elizabeth’s name means ‘God is my fullness, my completion’. In the light of Luke’s story about her, what an apt name that is!

The God in whom both Elizabeth and Mary delight, the God who has made each of them pregnant in a miraculous manner, is the God who delivers oppressed people from their pain and humiliation. This is the God who brought the Israelites out of slavery from Egypt and the exiles home from Babylon. This is the God whom Elizabeth thanks for removing her embarrassment about being infertile (1:25). This is the God whom Mary praises in her Magnificat for having ‘looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant’ (1:48)

We find the two cousins meeting in Elizabeth’s house in the little village of Ain Karin in the hills of Judaea. Pregnant women say they find comfort in being with one another, encouraging and supporting one another, sharing hopes and fears, and gaining practical information about the changes in their bodies. Elizabeth and Mary share their excitement about the babies they are carrying, but also about the plans and presence of God to them and their babies. They share their deep faith and trust in what God is doing.

Elizabeth becomes aware of God’s presence at the very moment Mary comes through the door and starts to greet her cousin. Her child John leaps inside her womb. She remembers how the young King David danced in the presence of God before the Ark of the Covenant. ‘Filled with the Holy Spirit’ (1:41), she praises God and Mary’s cooperation with God. In words which have passed into our ‘Hail Mary’ prayer, she says to her: ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb’ (1:42) She recognises that Mary has kept on believing that God would keep his promises. Finally, she calls Mary’s visit a special blessing to herself when she exclaims: ‘Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord?’ (Lk 1:43)

While Luke makes clear that Elizabeth was not young, he does not imply that she was frail, feeble, doddery, demented or foolish. She is typical of the kind of senior women in our parishes, towns and suburbs, who are the backbone of our communities. They serve in the sanctuary and work in the parish offices. They visit the sick. They teach and train the young. They pass on their wisdom to the next generation, as Elizabeth does in Luke’s story.

Grandmothers and grandmother figures care for children when their parents are at work or otherwise absent. They listen with compassion to the stories of the needy, the humiliated, the hurt and the wounded. While they won’t put up with any lies, hypocrisy, guff or baloney, they are often the only ones who will greet us with a smile and take time to listen to our troubles. From their own rich life experiences, they offer perspective and balance. Thanks to their sense of humour they teach us not to take things too seriously, ourselves included. And isn’t that a great gift from God?

The older women in our communities teach us not to be morbid or preoccupied with death, as they live in the present but with trust in the future. So often there is a special joy about them, the joy that comes from their trust in God, a joy that is infectious and energizing. We see that joy in the enthusiasm of the elderly Elizabeth in welcoming Mary to her home.

We can imagine how encouraging that was for Mary, whose pregnancy was surely frightening and confusing for a very young single girl. Elizabeth reminds us of all those older women who mentor and support new mothers, including unmarried ones, who are there for abused women and their children, who befriend girls addicted to alcohol and drugs, who reach out to runaway and homeless children, and who help young women find jobs and learn new skills in the office and the home. Elizabeth reminds us too of all those older women, who have kept praying all their lives, and who help younger ones interpret the Word and will of God. They are truly faith-friends to the rest of the parish.

To sum up! In the story of the visit of Mary to her cousin, Elizabeth too stands out as ‘blessed among women’ for the role-model and inspiration she is for the senior women of our communities. They are at home with both God and us. They sustain us by their presence, their prayers, their sensitivity, their generosity, their wisdom and their love. We honour them this Christmas, and we pray that in the coming New Year that they, like Mary and Elizabeth, will enjoy God’s special favour for being the special people they are.


NO ROOM AT THE INN?’ CHRISTMAS 2018

There was this good pastor, who was respected by his people and by his fellow priests. One year he was on holidays when it was getting close to Christmas. He was thinking about Mary and Joseph, and how they must have felt when door after door slammed in their faces, when they went looking for a room for Mary to have her baby. He kept thinking: ‘"No room for them at the inn!", and no room anywhere else!’ All his life he had been interested in social issues, and this year he was thinking not only of the plight of Mary and Joseph and their baby, but also of the plight of homeless people everywhere. He was thinking and feeling so deeply about them that he decided to find out what it would be like to walk in their shoes. So he put on some shabby clothes and a knapsack. Wearing a hat and shaggy stubble of a beard, he found that nobody recognized him now, as he went knocking on doors looking for help. He found too that those who were better off were less likely to help than those who had little themselves. In fact, rich people sometimes set their dogs on to him.

When he went to a certain rectory, where one of his priest-friends lived, he was not recognised for who he was, but the housekeeper had pity on him, let him into the kitchen and gave him a piece of toast and a cup of coffee. While he was sitting there in a spot he knew very well, his priest colleague and friend came in and told him to leave immediately. So he did.

The priest who went looking for help that year found out far more from his experiences than from anything he had read in books and newspapers, and anything he had seen on television, just what it’s like to be a homeless person, poor and defenceless. He also understood so much better than before what it must be like to be a refugee and an asylum seeker, doors slamming everywhere. He also felt closer than ever before to Mary and Joseph, forced to find a shed for a roof over their heads for themselves and their baby. Never before had the Christmas story been so real for him. Never before had he felt so close to the Christ-child.

For Jesus came on earth, not as a powerful prince living in a fine mansion in the most powerful nation on earth, but as the foster son of a poor carpenter, born in a shed in one of the weakest nations on earth, a nation ruled by the Roman emperor, a nation paying taxes to a hated occupying power. When he arrived in our world, he was not visited by dignitaries, generals, or celebrities. He was greeted and visited by poor shepherds, probably smelly and unwashed. In their time and place they counted so little that their testimony was simply not accepted in any court of law. But it was to those shepherds, nevertheless, that God gave his good and wonderful news: 'I bring you news of great joy, a joy to be shared by the whole people.'

The choice of such aliens and outcasts as the first to receive the Christmas message shows that God has no exceptional love for the rich and famous and powerful, the movers and shakers of this world and the manipulators of markets. On the other hand he does have a special care and affection for the victims, the suffering, the poor and the downtrodden. God is on their side.

This vital truth is illustrated by the condition of the Christ-child himself. The sign the shepherds are to look for is a baby wrapped in rags and lying in a manger, the feed box of animals. So within and beyond these signs of poverty, vulnerability and weakness, there is to be discovered the power of love, which is to say the power of God, the power of Love Itself. The impact and the significance of the circumstances of the birth of Jesus could not be better expressed than in two sentences from our scripture readings today. The first says that: 'The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light.' The second says: 'Today in the town of David a saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.’

In a nutshell, Jesus was born to us and among us, so that we might be born in a new way. Born to live like sons and daughters of the God who is particularly caring about the poor, the deprived, the lonely, the lost, the grieving, and the heart-broken! Born to live with the same sensitivity and compassion as Jesus - walking his way, telling his truth and living like him! So the Christ-child whom we adore makes everything new again. He invites us to look at and respond to the hundreds and thousands of needy and broken human beings who won’t be having even a tiny fraction of what you and I will be enjoying at our Christmas celebrations.

We can’t pretend that the invitation of Christ at Christmas time to get a life, a new life, will always happens at a time of perfect peace, tranquility and contentment. Here’s an extreme example! A newspaper reporter has said that whenever he was assigned to the Christmas shift he always did a story on how many more murders occur on this day than on any other in the whole year. Sadly, what is meant to bring out the best in people when they get together to celebrate Christmas, sometimes brings out the worst.

But we, the gathered people of God, have only kind and gentle thoughts for one another and for all our fellow human beings as we celebrate God's overwhelming love. My own Christmas and New Year wish and prayer for you is that the God Who loves you individually, personally and deeply, and who has sent you his Son, will bless you with patience and endurance, with mercy and forgiveness, and with faith, hope and love. To the max!

"Brian Gleeson CP" <bgleesoncp@gmail.com>

 

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5.

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Volume 2 is for you. Your thoughts, reflections, and insights on the next Sundays readings can influence the preaching you hear. Send them to preacherexchange@att.net.  Deadline is Wednesday Noon. Include your Name, and Email Address.

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Volume II Archive

We keep up to six articles in this archive.  The latest is always listed first.

Baptism of the Lord EPIPHANY HOLY FAMILY ADVENT 4 ADVENT 3 ADVENT 2


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