4th SUNDAY OF ADVENT. You may not have noticed, but this year is the longest season of Advent possible, 4 full weeks, 28 days. That’s because this year Christmas falls a full week, 7 days, after the 4th Sunday of Advent, on a Sunday instead of on a Saturday or weekday. Some years, for example, Christmas falls on the Monday after the 4th Sunday of Advent, so that Advent would only be 3 weeks and 1 day long, 22 days.
I like this extended Advent, and pray and hope all of you have made good use of this extra time to make it a holy season preparing for the worthy celebration of the birth of our Savior. But I know that even with the best preparation and intentions, it’s so easy at the last minute to lose sight of that if you’re not careful. Many of you, especially parents of little ones, will be so concerned about making everything perfect for your families and loved ones that you will wind up being stressed out and exhausted by the time Christmas Day arrives. This in turn can lead to a less than Merry Christmas for you, and for those you’re trying so hard to please.
So, I ask you all, to remember that the only thing that we really need to try to make perfect on Christmas is our love—our love for Jesus and His heavenly Father, and our love for those around us He has given us to love. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus in the next week, and your heart fixed on His love. The love that was so boundless that it led Him to strip himself of the magnificent glory of His heavenly throne to descend to earth to become a poor, vulnerable human baby. How He must love us! Especially knowing beforehand that this would ultimately culminate in not only His salvific suffering and death on the cross, but in the rejection of His love and salvation by so many people over thousands of years.
Remember to keep the Baby Jesus in the center of everything you do, and let His love for us be the standard by which we judge and measure every act we do in the next week and beyond. Let our goal not be to have the best secular or cultural or material Christmas, but to love Jesus with all our heart, mind, souls and strength. Make sure you pray, and lead others to prayer, especially your families; try to come to a daily Mass this week, and pray the Rosary meditating on the Joyful Mysteries. Make sure to keep His commandments, and love your neighbors, especially your families, as Jesus has loved us. Remember to be kind and patient. To be not selfish, greedy or envious, but selfless, grateful and magnanimous. And to not worry if the presents aren’t wrapped just so, or if the dinner is a little overcooked, or if you didn’t get exactly what you wanted from Santa. And above all make plans today to make Holy Mass on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day the center and highpoint of your celebration.
Christmas Decorations. Our spiritual preparation during the Advent season is outwardly expressed in the lack of Christmas decorations in the church. While it’s fine for families to decorate their houses in the weeks before Christmas—if it’s done in a spirit of preparation and not a premature celebration. But Church tradition tells us to refrain from decorating churches during Advent. I think that now more than ever it’s important to maintain this tradition as the contrast between the ubiquitous decorations all around us versus the stark simplicity of the church reminds us to keep focused on the spiritual preparation, as well emphasize the growing anticipation of the Coming of the Lord at Christmas and at the end of time. “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near…” Moreover, the dramatic change from Advent starkness to Christmas decorations reminds us that Christmas is a historical event, a day on which everything changed in Christ.
That being said, this week we will start to decorate the church. Of course, this is, in part, a matter of practicality: we have to put the decorations up sometime before Christmas Day. But it also reinforces the idea that we are rapidly drawing near the great day, the “dawn from high is breaking upon us”—the day is almost here.
This year we will be adding one very important “decoration”: an outdoor Nativity scene. This is a gift to the parish in honor of Jean and Anna Anezin, long time parishioners, now deceased. May it assist all who see and pray before it to draw nearer to the Baby Jesus, His Mother, St. Joseph, and to salvation.
Lessons and Carols. I was once again overwhelmed by our Lessons and Carols last Sunday. First, by the choir’s magnificent singing—it literally brought tears to so many eyes of the folks gathered, including my own. Thanks to all the members of the choir who worked so hard and delivered for us such a special evening, especially Elisabeth Turco, our Music Director. Second, I was overwhelmed by the size of the crowd. Every year it has grown: we began with about 80 folks 5 years ago, 2 years ago it had grown to about 150, and last year we burgeoned to about 300. But this year it grew to somewhere around 450. I’m so glad to see this event being enjoyed by so many of our parishioners and guests.
10th Anniversary. Tomorrow, December 19th, will be the 10th anniversary of the dedication of our beautiful church. I remember that day very well, as I was in attendance with so many other priests. I had struggled over whether we should have a big parish celebration to commemorate the day, but all things considered (e.g. this is a very complicated week for most of us) in the end I thought it best to keep things simple. I hope this doesn’t disappoint you, and sincerely apologize if it does.
But let me thank all you who have contributed so generously, some heroically, in time, talent and/or treasure, to the building of our church, and to the paying off of its debt. Most specially I thank my illustrious predecessor, Fr. James Gould (now pastor of St. John’s in Warrenton) for the herculean task of building such a noble and sacred temple. And above all, we all give thanks to Almighty God for this gift, and the graces He continues to pour out on us through it.
Christmas Collection Confusion? A little housekeeping. Every year our largest offertory collection is on Christmas Day. However, since Christmas falls on a Sunday this year, some folks may forget that we have two envelopes to drop in the one collection basket: one for the regular Sunday and one for Christmas Day. Please do not forget to bring both envelopes, as it would be devastating to our budget to lose either.
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles