Saturday, December 20, 2014
This message is extended to all those gathering on the Fourth Sunday of Advent, as well as to those who will be participating in the Masses of Christmas on Wednesday and Thursday of this week. If you are reading this on Saturday evening or Sunday morning, then you will have encountered a continuation of a detour— the work zone of the new portico for the church. If you are, on the other hand, sitting in a pew having made your way to Church on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning, you may be finding yourself with mixed thoughts and feelings: on the one hand, happy that the driveway has been reopened for this special holiday period, but on the other hand wondering: “Wait, this project can’t be completed...There’s no roof yet!”
Indeed, we are still a ways off from having the portico finished. What we see, just outside the doors of our church building, is still, more or less, an active work zone. May I suggest that this is a rather apt metaphor for who we are called to be and what we are to be about as those who live Anno Domini,—in the period of time following the earthly life of Christ Jesus, whose birth we commemorate with abundant joy in these days. Even as we rejoice that God has come to earth and accomplished our salvation through His life-giving death and resurrection, the earth is still very much an active work zone ! The brilliance of lights that help illuminate winter skies shines alongside of the clouds of smoke that billow on the streets of many places in the world in aftermath of acts of violence and destruction. The sweetness of Christmas pastries is mixed with the bitter taste of centuries-held prejudices and sinful pride. As Christians, we have much yet to do toward constructing a place where all are sheltered and given entrance.
This December marks the twenty-sixth since my father’s death and the third following my mother’s passing forth. We wish to extend a gentle hand and heart to those who move through these days in what may feel like completely new territory in the absence of a loved one, perhaps not even sure as to how we are “supposed to act.” My hope and prayer is that the People of God who form the community of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Parish show a vivid witness of the tender heart of Our Heavenly Father as they greet, stand with and sing out in chorus with you.
To those who will take to the roads, rails, water and air in this season, to reconnect with family and friends, or perhaps to spend these holy days in some “exotic” locale, we hope that beyond having a safe journey (and saving on fuel costs:-) you will carry a spirit of pilgrimage. Remember: the first Christmas journey— the one made by Joseph and Mary and the babe in her womb— was undertaken in far-from-ideal conditions and circumstances. If the Mother of God and the earthly father of Jesus were not exempt from trials on the way, we can hardly expect to be immune to the vicissitudes that come with a world that has yet fully to grow into its ultimate state of redemption and perfection. My thought is: when it comes right down to it, the window of time for singing these marvelous tunes is fairly small. In adversity: Sing!
Blessed Christmas, Fr. Stephen