December 20, 2018

CHRISTMAS- 2018- Six homilies & 35 additional anecdotes

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May Jesus be reborn in your heart and life during Christmas 2018 and every day of the New Year 2019. May He radiate His presence from within you as sharing love, unconditional forgiveness, humble service, compassionate heart and overflowing generosity. May the Holy Babe of Bethlehem bless you with health in body and soul and grant you a peaceful and blessed New Year. I assure you of my special prayers during my Christmas Holy Masses and every day in the New Year. Fr. Tony. (Fr. Anthony Kadavil, Chaplain, Little Sisters of the Poor, 1655 McGill Ave, Mobile, AL 36604 (akadavil@gmail.com)

CHRISTMAS GREETINGS & PRAYERS

May the LORD bless you and keep you!

May the LORD let his face shine upon you and be gracious to you!

May the LORD look upon you kindly and give you peace!

(Book of Numbers 6: 24-26)

One-page summary of thematic homily no 1: Christmas is a feast of great rejoicing (Lk 2: 1-14)

Why do we celebrate Christmas with great rejoicing?

#1: First, Christmas is the Feast of God’s sending us a Savior : God undertook the Incarnation of Jesus as God-Man to save us from the bondage of sin. The Hindus believe in ten incarnations of God. The purpose of these incarnations is stated in their Holy Scripture, Bagavath Geetha or Song of God. “God incarnates to restore righteousness in the world whenever there is a large-scale erosion of moral values.” (“Dharma samstaphanarthe sambhavami yuge yuge.”). But the Christian Scriptures teach only one Incarnation, and its purpose is given in John 3: 16: “God so loved the world that He sent His only Son so that everyone who believes in Him may not die but have eternal life.” We celebrate the Incarnation of God as a baby today as Good News because we have a Divine Savior. As our Savior, Jesus liberated us from slavery to sin by his suffering, death and Resurrection, and he atoned for our sins. So, every Christmas reminds us that we need a Savior every day, to free us from our evil addictions and unjust, impure and uncharitable tendencies. This Christmas also challenges us to accept Jesus in the manger as our saving God and personal Savior and to surrender our lives to him, allowing him to rule our hearts and lives every day in the New Year

.# 2: Second, Christmas is the Feast of God’s sharing His love with us: Jesus, as our Savior, brought the “Good News” that our God is a loving, forgiving, merciful and rewarding God and not a judgmental, cruel and punishing God. He demonstrated by his life and teaching how God our Heavenly Father loves us, forgives us, provides for us and rewards us. All his miracles were signs of this Divine Love. Jesus’ final demonstration of God’s love for us was his death on the cross to atone for our sins and to make us children of God. Each Christmas reminds us that sharing love with others is our Christian duty, and every time we do that, Jesus is reborn in our lives. Let us face this question, “What does it profit me if Jesus is born in thousands of cribs all over the world and He is not born in my heart?” (Alexander Pope). Hence, let us allow Jesus to be reborn in our hearts and lives, not only during Christmas, but every day, so that he may radiate the light of his presence from within us as sharing and selfless love, expressed in compassionate words and deeds, unconditional forgiveness, the spirit of humble service and overflowing generosity.

 

# 3: Third, Christmas is the Feast of the Emmanuel (God living with us and within us): Christmas is the feast of the Emmanuel because God in the New Testament is a God who continues to live with us in all the events of our lives as the “Emmanuel” announced by the angel to Mary. As Emmanuel, Jesus lives in the Sacraments (especially in the Holy Eucharist), in the Bible, in the praying community and in each believer as the Holy Spirit transforms us into “Temples of the Holy Spirit.” Christmas reminds us that we are bearers of God with the missionary duty of conveying Jesus to those around us by loving them as Jesus did, through sacrificial, humble and committed service. Sharing with others Jesus, the Emmanuel living within us, is the best Christmas gift we can give, or receive, today. (Fr. Tony) 2018.

CHRISTMAS- GOD’S SHARING LOVE AS AN EMMANUEL & SAVIOR

Homily starter # 1: Christmas questions answered: 1) Is Christmas the greatest feast celebrated in the Church? The answer is no. Easter is feast No. 1, Pentecost No. 2 and Christmas is No. 3. The Roman Church started its celebration around AD 336, only after Christianity was recognized as the state religion. 2) Was Jesus born on December 25th? The answer is no. Many Fathers of the Church thought that Jesus was born on January 4th, in 4 B.C. before the death of King Herod the Great. Some Bible scholars fix it in the month of September during the Feast of the Tabernacles when people travelled and when the sheep were in the field at night. St. Hippolytus (3rd century AD) affirmed that Christ was born Wednesday, December 25, in the 42nd year of Augustus’ reign. December 25th was fixed by Pope Julius in A.D. 353 as a part of baptizing or Christianizing pagan feasts so that the converted pagans might celebrate the birthday of Jesus on Dec 25th instead of celebrating the birthday the Sun-god (Natalis Solis Invicti, the Birthday of the Unconquerable Sun) during winter solstice and that the converted Roman soldiers might celebrate Christmas instead the birthday of Mitra, the Roman god-of-virility. 3) Is not Christmas celebration pagan? The name Romans gave to their winter solstice holiday was Saturnalia, named after the pagan deity, Saturn. That night, they would go around from house to house and sing Saturnalia songs, buy and make and wrap presents to pass out to family members and friends, decorate trees and hang lighted candles in covered bags. The Christian church baptized all these pagan celebrations into Christian ones, giving Christian meaning to them when it converted pagans into Christians. Most of the present-day Christmas decorations like the Christmas tree and Christmas lights, Christmas gifts and Christmas carols are thus remnants of the pagan celebrations. It was Emperor Julianus who declared Christmas as a national holiday in the 6th century. It was St. Francis of Assisi who first introduced the manger or Christmas crib in the 13th century. 3) Where did the name Christmas originate? In medieval times the celebration of Christmas took the form of a special Mass celebrated at midnight on the eve of Christ’s birth. Since this was the only time in the Catholic Church year when a Midnight Mass was allowed, it soon became known in Middle English as Christes Masse (Christ’s Mass), from which is derived Christmas. It is often abbreviated as Xmas, probably because X or Xt have often been used as a contraction for Christ. The English letter X resembles the Greek letter (chi), the first letter of Christ in Greek and transliterated as Christos.

# 2: The first Christmas crib: It was St Francis of Assisi who assembled the first crib in a cave on an Italian hillside. It was in 1293 that the first crèche was erected in the woods of Greccio near Assisi, on Christmas Eve. The crib was ready, hay was brought, the ox and the donkey were led to the spot. Greccio became a new Bethlehem. The aim of St. Francis was to make the Christmas story come alive for the people of the locality. His idea was to show them how close it was to them and their lives. And it seems that he succeeded. On Christmas Eve the friars and the people assembled with candles and torches around the crib. Francis spoke to the people, who were mostly farmers and shepherds, about God’s Son coming among us to teach us that we too are children of God, and that as such we have an eternal destiny. The shepherds and farmers got the messages: God had time for simple folks like them. At the end of the vigil they all returned to their homes, full of peace and joy, feeling very close to God and to one another. (http://www.catholicdoors.com/misc/christmascrib.htm).

# 3: “Abnormal” birth: After explaining childbirth, the biology teacher asked her 3rd graders to write an essay on “childbirth” in their families. Susan went home and asked her mother how she was born. Her mother, who was busy at the time, said, “A big white swan brought you darling, and left you on our doorstep.” Continuing her research, she asked grandma how she got her mother as a child. Being in the middle of something, her grandma similarly deflected the question by saying, “A fairy brought your mom as a little baby, and I found her in our garden in an open box”. Then the girl went and asked her great-grandmother how she got her grandma as a baby. “I picked her from a box I found in the gooseberry bush,” said the surprised great-grandma. With this information, the girl wrote her essay. When the teacher asked her later to read it in front of the class, she stood up and began, “I am very sad to find out that there was not even a single natural birth in our family for three generations… All our children were extraterrestrials.” (Rev. Fairchild). Today the words of Isaiah tell us of another non-normal birth. It’s a non-normal birth, never before, nor after, seen or experienced, because it is the birth of God as man – Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of Man, as our Savior.

# 4: Kierkegaard’s fable of a king who fell in love with a maid: A king fell in love with a poor maid. The king wanted to marry her. When asked, “How shall I declare my love?” his counselors answered, “Your majesty has only to appear in all the glory of your royal raiment before the maid’s humble dwelling and she will instantly fall at your feet and be yours.” But it was precisely that which troubled the king. He wanted her glorification, not his. In return for his love he wanted hers, freely given. Finally, the king realized love’s truth, that freedom for the beloved demanded equality with the beloved. So late one night, after all the counselors of the palace had retired, he slipped out a side door and appeared before the maid’s cottage dressed as a servant to confess his love for her. Clearly, the fable is a Christmas story. God chose to express His love for us humans by becoming one like us. We are called to obey, not God’s power, but God’s love. God wants not submission to his power, but in return for his love, our own.

Additional Christmas messages: 1) We need to remember that God gives us Christmas gift at Every Holy Mass. God’s Christmas gift to us is eternal life through His Son Jesus Christ. He gives us this precious gift every time we participate in Eucharistic celebration. God gives it to us through the powerful Word of God read and preached during the Mass and the life-giving Body and Blood of Jesus given in Holy Communion. It means that at each Holy Mass we are given the grace of growing spiritually in such a way that we become more open to receive the fulness of God’s life.

2) Christmas is the time to practice forgiving love: Christmas really is a time for giving more of ourselves to others. In other words, it is also a time for forgiving – time for giving ourselves to others. It has often been said that to start the year off well, one has to have the slate of life as clean as possible. One cannot tackle another of work and challenge and relationships with others burdened with guilt. And so, we are told first to forgive ourselves and then to forgive others and pray that others forgive us. So, it’s not just forgiving others, it is forgiving ourselves and asking for forgiveness as well. So, Jesus Christ becoming man is not only a great proof of God’s love to us, but this love is first and foremost, a forgiving type of love, a love that knows no bounds where everybody is welcome and is accepted.

Christmas Jokes: 1) “How many people attend your church?” one pastor asked another. “Sixty regular, and about three hundred C and E.” “What’s C and E?” the first asked. Came the quick answer: “Christmas and Easter. We call them Poinsettias and Easter Lilies.” 2) Just before Christmas a college professor read the following on an examination paper: “God only knows the answer to this question. Merry Christmas.” Across the same paper the professor wrote: “God gets an A; you get an F. Happy New Year.”

3) A guy bought his wife a beautiful diamond ring for Christmas. A friend of his said, “I thought she wanted one of those sporty 4-Wheel drive vehicles.” “She did,” he replied. “But where in the heck was I gonna find a fake Jeep?” LP

Christmas videos

Laser Christmas Illumination at the Cathedral of Sydney (video included): http://www.sydneycatholic.org/news/latest_news/2011/2011129_1371.shtml Kindergarten version of Christmas: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=ki8EcnVbd-Q

Bethlehem: https://youtu.be/NrMior480Ew Song: Mary did you know https://youtu.be/ifCWN5pJGIE?list=PLlYKDqBVDxX2fN3gB_hSuRx4BJzgBj0Q6 Christmas celebration in Bethlehem: https://youtu.be/rKC8TVzCQ50

Christmas: Christian or Pagan by Jim McClarty. HISTORY http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=XvnZq_a8BqE & https://youtu.be/WxbPWxrTEl4

Apologetic answers: about misconceptions about Christmas

http://www.bigccatholics.com/2015/12/seven-misconceptions-about-birth-of.html

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Fr. Anthony. Kadavil, Chaplain, Little Sisters of the Poor, 1655 McGill Ave, Mobile, Al 36604.

On this Christmas Day, May God put the Spirit of the Shepherds in us. May God put the Spirit of the Wise Men in us. May God put the spirit of Mary and Joseph in us. But, most important of all – May God put the spirit of Jesus in us. He wants to do that… He wants to come into our hearts, but we have to let Him in.

“Scriptural Homilies” Cycle C (No. 6-a) by Fr. Tony: akadavil@gmail.com ) L-18)

Madona-and-Child The Adoration of the Shepherds by Gerrit van Honthorst

Christmas: Thematic homily no. 2

Christmas the feast of light, love, joy, peace, hope and Emmanuel

First, Christmas is a feast of light: Today’s readings center around the theme of light, and the Baby in the manger is the Light of the world. In the Gospel Reading of today, we are told that light from heaven surrounded the shepherds as the Angels sang their praises of God. The Christmas reading from prophet Isaiah is his prophecy: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone.” Hanukka or the Festival of Lights celebrated by the Jews proclaimed the cleansing and purification of the Temple and its altar by Judas Maccabees and how Yahweh’s light continued to brighten the world. But the true re-purification of God’s Temple occurred, not by the hand of a Maccabee, but with the birth of Jesus Christ. That is why the Church celebrates the birth of Jesus in the schematic framework of Hannukah. Christmas was the signal to the world that God’s promised light came to earth. The light of divinity from a baby in the manger was powerful enough to dissipate the darkness of sin because Jesus proclaimed later: “I am the light of the world; anyone who follows me will not be walking in the dark; he will have the light of life’.” (Jn.8:12). Jesus demands that as light of the world his disciples should let their lights shine before men in such a way that they will see our good works and glorify God. Light helps us to walk and work in darkness and gives us warmth and warning against dangers. As we celebrate the feast of heavenly light during Christmas, let us be filled with the light borrowed from Christ child and radiate that light around us in the form of love, kindness, mercy, forgiveness and humble service.

Second, Christmas is a feast of love: John in his Gospel says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that whoever believes in him, will not perish, but will have eternal life.” Christmas is God’s self-gift given to us in the person of Jesus Christ for the salvation of mankind and it really tells us how magnanimously God loves us and cares for us. Each Christmas reminds us that we are expected to return God’s love by sharing our gifts of kindness, mercy, forgiveness and humble service with others, or generously sharing all our blessings with others. The Magi came from the east to worship the Lord and they brought him gifts. We too, in response to God’s great love, need to give ourselves to Him as gifts. Christmas thus is a a feast of gifts, and exchange of gifts with our loved ones has become a common practice during this time.

Third, Christmas is an event of joy, it is a feast of joy: The angels told the shepherds to rejoice because the Savior had come:  Luke 2: 10-11: “Don’t be afraid.   I am here with Good News for you, which will bring great joy to all people.   This very day in David’s town, a Savior has been born for you – Christ the Lord.” Joy pervades the whole atmosphere, the heavenly joy of the angels expressed by their message and songs, and the earthly joy of the shepherds as they hastened to Bethlehem to find the new-born child. No wonder, joy is a theme which goes right through the infancy narrative in Luke’s gospel. Let us rejoice because we have a savior God born to liberate us from the bonds of sin. We rejoice today with those shepherds because we have a Savior who can free us from the bondage of sin.   We have a Savior who liberates us from our slavery to impure, unjust and uncharitable thoughts, desires and habits.   We have a Savior Who can, and will, release us from our evil addictions, heal our physical and mental diseases and free us from hatred, enmity, jealousy and bitterness.

Fourth, Christmas is an event of peace, it is a feast of peace: That peace is the shalom of God – life experienced in all its fullness, richness, and completeness in accord with the will of God. The angelic song conveys the message that true peace on earth is available only to those with the good will to receive it by doing the will of God, thus giving Him glory. Christmas gives us the message of lasting peace, which we can possess only by sharing our blessings with others.  This is the message contained in the celestial song of the angels, reported in Luke’s Gospel:   “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to people of good will.”   Christmas reminds us that God shared His love by giving us His Son.  Hence, we must share our health, wealth, talents and blessings with others.   Just as Jesus shared His love with the poor shepherds and the humble Magi, we, too, are called to share our love with the less fortunate people around us. Sharing with love is the sign that one has the “good will” of which the angel spoke. The peace of Christmas is promised only to such large-hearted people, for only they are able to receive it.

Fifth, Christmas is an event of hope, it is a feast of hopeChristmas is not just one day, but a season which lasts for twelve days, concluding on Epiphany. The extension of the feast should remind us to continue to share our joyful hope at the comings of the Messiah – the first some 2000 years ago, the last at the ‘Parousia’ or ‘Second coming,’ and all those occurring between the two, as we live our daily lives. This is what Paul expresses in his letter to Titus, in the Second Reading of today – “The grace of God has appeared, saving all and … as we await the blessed hope, the appearance of the glory of our great God and savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself to deliver us … eager to do what is good.”

Last, the real meaning of Christmas is ‘Emmanuel,’ God-with-us – God coming down to us; God coming alongside us; God seeking us out; God revealing Himself to us; God bringing us forgiveness, healing, comfort, moral strength, guidance. Each one of us has, deep down in our soul, an incredible hunger: a hunger for purpose and meaning; a hunger to feel and celebrate the redeeming, forgiving, sustaining love of God; a hunger to be in the presence of God. Christmas is special because it reminds us concretely that God is indeed with us. In every circumstance of life, even when we are frightened or lonely or in sorrow, God is with us. As we celebrate the incarnation of the Word of God this Christmas, we must make a conscious effort, both to remember that Jesus is always with us, especially in the Eucharist, and to share our joy in His presence with others. So, let’s go straight to the heart of Christmas and accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.

As Emmanuel, Jesus lives in the Sacraments (especially in the Holy Eucharist), in the Bible, in the praying community and in each believer as the Holy Spirit transforms us into “Temples of the Holy Spirit.” Christmas reminds us that we are bearers of God with the missionary duty of conveying Jesus to those around us by loving them as Jesus did, through sacrificial, humble and committed service. Sharing with others Jesus, the Emmanuel living within us, is the best Christmas gift we can give, or receive, today.

Let us conclude our Christmas reflections asking ourselves whether we would let Jesus in, because he is standing outside the door of our hearts, knocking to see if we would gladly open the doors of our hearts and welcome him and allow him to be reborn in our hearts and lives. Let us realize the truth that Christmas isn’t only an event of the past, but more importantly – it is also an event of today and each day, Hence, let us joyfully acclaim – “TODAY IS BORN OUR SAVIOR – CHRIST THE LORD”

30 additional Christmas anecdotes are appended to the end

Christmas: Four Lectionary-based homilies.

One page summary: Christmas Vigil: Is 62:1-5, Acts 13:16-17, 22-25, Mt 1:1-25 /1:18-25

Central theme: The Scripture lessons for today focus on the first Christmas, or the birthday of Jesus, which we celebrate today in all its solemnity. We are celebrating the fulfillment of the prophecies about our merciful God Who sent His own Son to save a sinful world.

Scripture lessons summarized: In the first reading, Isaiah prophesies how the God of Israel will honor the desolate and forsaken Jerusalem and land of Israel by espousing her as a man marries a virgin and makes her fertile. Yahweh will do this by sending His long-awaited Messiah into Israel to possess it rule over it. The Messiah will vindicate Israel and save it. The Lord God wished to inspire the hopeless Israelites, returned from the Babylonian exile, to plant crops and make their desolate land fertile and prosperous so that she might be able to hold up her head again among the other nations.  In the second reading, St. Paul recounts the history of God’s mercy to Israel, His chosen people. God showed His mercy to Israel by fulfilling the prophecy about His long-awaited Messiah, sending His Son as the Savior and the descendant of David. The Gospel (Matthew 1: 1-24), first recounts the genealogy of Jesus (vv 1-17), tracing his descent from Abraham through David (as foretold by the prophet), then describes his birth in Bethlehem as our Savior (vv 18-25), through the working of the Holy Spirit.   The Gospel also shows how God resolved the doubts of Joseph by sending His angel, first to reassure Joseph, then to instruct him to name the child Jesus. The name Jesus is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Yehosua, which means “Yahweh is salvation.” Just as the first Joshua (successor of Moses) saved the Israelites from their enemies, the second Joshua (Jesus) would save them from their sins.

Life messages: 1) We need allow the Savior to be reborn in our lives.   Let us remember the famous lines of Alexander Pope: “What do I profit if Jesus is born in thousands of cribs all over the world during this Christmas, but is not born in my heart?”   Let us allow him to be reborn in our lives during Christmas 2016 and every day of the New Year 2017. Let us show the good will and generosity of sharing with others Jesus, our Savior reborn in our hearts, by love, kindness, mercy, forgiveness and humble service.

2) We need to look for Jesus in unlikely places and persons.   The message of Christmas is that we can truly find Jesus if we look in the right places –  in the streets, in slums, in asylums, in orphanages, in nursing homes – starting in our own homes, workplaces and town. God challenges us to be like the shepherds who overcame their fear in order to seek out Jesus, or like the Wise Men who traveled a long distance to find Him. Then we will have the true experience of Christmas – the joy of the Savior. LP

CHRISTMAS VIGIL: Is 62:1-5, Acts 13:16-17, 22-25, Mt 1:1-25 / 18-25

Anecdote: 1) Consider Christmas Again: When Pope Julius I authorized December 25 to be celebrated as the birthday of Jesus in A.D. 353, who would have ever thought that it would become what it is today? In 1223 when St. Francis of Assisi used a nearby cave to set up a manger filled with straw, and his friend, Vellita, brought in an ox and a donkey, just like those at Bethlehem, nobody thought how that novel idea was going to evolve through the centuries. When Professor Charles Follen lit candles on the first Christmas tree in America in 1832, who would have ever thought that the decorations would become as elaborate as they are today? There is an unproved legend that Martin Luther is responsible for the origin of the Christmas tree. This story says that one Christmas Eve, about the year 1500, he was walking through the snow-covered woods and was struck by the beauty of the snow glistened trees. Their branches, dusted with snow, shimmered in the moonlight. When he got home, he set up a small fir tree and shared the story with his children. He decorated the Christmas tree with small candles, which he lighted in honor of Christ’s birth. In 2016, having walked through Advent again in the midst of all the excitement, elaborate decorations and expensive commercialization which surround Christmas today, we are given another opportunity to pause, to consider again the event of Christmas and the Person Whose birth we celebrate.

2) The Early American Christmas celebrations: Back in the early 1700s, when the United States were the Colonies, the settlers in Williamsburg, capital of Colonial Virginia, celebrated Christmas with customs they had brought from German tradition), no Nativity crèche (an Italian tradition), and no chimney stockings (an American tradition).  Christmas in Colonial Williamsburg was primarily a holy day, but the atmosphere was not solemn. Churches and homes were decorated with greens, while candles burned in all the windows to welcome carolers.
There was a public celebration, too. Musicians played special concerts, fireworks were set off and cannon were fired to heighten the general merriment. Feasting was in order with dishes of roasted fowl and hare, marrow pudding, ham, oysters, sausage, shellfish, often capped by whole roast boar on a platter. Some gifts were given then as part of the Christmas celebration, but not nearly on the present-day scale.

Introduction: The Scripture lessons for today focus on the first Christmas. In the first reading, Isaiah shows us the vindication of Israel by the Lord God. This vindication has found its fulfillment for all of us in the coming of Jesus as our Savior. In the second reading, St. Paul recounts the history of God’s mercy to Israel, His chosen people. That mercy has culminated in the birth of Jesus, the Messiah for whom the Jews have been waiting for centuries. The Gospel provides the genealogy of Jesus, tracing his descent from David, and recounts the story of his birth in Bethlehem as our Savior.

The first reading, Isaiah: 62: 1-5. After their exile in Babylon, the Jews returned to Judah where they had a difficult time restoring their old institutions, their economy, their capital Jerusalem and their Temple on Mount Zion. They were quite discouraged when the prophet Isaiah received this prophecy from God to restore their fallen spirits (Chapters 56-66.)   Just as we look forward to the celebration of the birth of the Messiah, so Isaiah looked forward to God’s breaking the silence of many years. In today’s text, Isaiah uses imagery describing the conversion of Israel from gloom to joy. Isaiah compares the dispirited Jewish people to a woman who had thought she would never marry. But she suddenly has found a suitor! It’s Israel, the land of the Jews that the Lord proposes to marry, and, by extension, to make fertile. The prophet’s goal has been to inspire the hopeless people to plant crops and thus allow Him to make their desolate land fertile.   Now, he says, Israel will be able to hold up her head again among the other nations, who will see her vindication.

Second Reading, Acts 13:16-17, 22-25: This reading is taken from the account of Paul’s first missionary journey, a journey which began in Syria and which took him to Antioch in Pisidia.  This is the first of the several speeches of St. Paul in which he tells   the Jews that the Christian Church is the logical development of Judaism.  When St. Paul delivered this speech, the Jews had 1800 years of history behind them. Paul takes advantage of their knowledge to show that the coming of Jesus was the fulfillment of all history.

Gospel exegesis: The genealogy of Jesus  (Mt 1:1-17):  While Paul presents Jesus as a descendent of David in our second reading, Matthew traces Jesus’ genealogy from Abraham. This genealogy not only shows Jesus’ human ancestry, but also indicates that salvation history has reached its climax with the birth of the Son of God through the working of the Holy Spirit. Though we often skip over these lists of names, the Gospel writers took great pains to compile the genealogies and to make several theological points in the process. Our Lord Jesus Christ was born of a line of ancestors whom Matthew arranges into three groups: 14 Patriarchs, 14 Kings and 14 Princes. The three groups are based on the three stages of Jewish history: i) the rise of Israel to a great kingdom by the time of David, ii) the fall of the nation by the time of Babylonian exile and iii) the resurrection of the nation after the exile. Strangely enough, the list includes a number of disreputable characters, including three women of bad reputation: Tamar, Rahab and Bathsheba. Perhaps the Lord God included these women in His Son’s human genealogy to emphasize God’s grace, to give us all hope and to show us that Jesus is sent to save sinners.  Thus, God’s powerful work of salvation comes to us under the appearance of weakness. From the beginning, Matthew’s account challenges our human expectations as to how God will fulfill our hopes for endless peace, justice, and righteousness. Luke’s account shows us another example of this kind of challenge. The royal child, heir to King David’s throne and bearer of wonderful titles, is born in poverty. He is laid in a manger because there is no room in the inn.

The three-step marriage:   Engagement, betrothal and marriage proper were the three stages of the Jewish marriage ceremony.   The engagement was often made through the parents when the prospective bride and groom were only children. The betrothal was the ratification of the engagement into which a couple had previously (been) entered.  It made the young man and woman husband and wife, legally married, but without cohabitation and conjugal rights for one year. The third stage was the marriage proper, which took place at the end of the year of betrothal. It was during the betrothal period that Mary miraculously conceived Jesus. The essence of Matthew’s story is that, in the birth of Jesus, the Spirit of God is seen operating in the world as He has never done before.

Joseph the “father” of Jesus (Mt. 1: 18-25): While Luke’s Gospel emphasizes the role of Mary, Matthew brings Joseph to the forefront.  Joseph is important to Matthew’s Gospel, because Jesus came from David’s lineage through Joseph (1:1-17).  The Davidic descent of Jesus is shown as both legal and natural. In other words, Jesus is descendant of Abraham and David not only by physical descent but also by God’s supernatural action. The Davidic descent of Jesus is transferred not through natural paternity but through legal paternity. Matthew carefully constructs v 18 to avoid saying that Jesus was the son of Joseph. As Mary’s legal husband, Joseph became the legal father of Jesus. Later, by naming the child, Joseph acknowledged the child as his own. The legal father was on par with the biological father as regards rights and duties.  Since it was common practice for couples to marry within their clan, probably Mary also belonged to the house of David. Several early Church fathers, including St. Ignatius of Antioch, St. Irenaeus, St. Justin and Tertullian, testify to this belief, basing their testimony on an unbroken oral tradition. Joseph is presented as a righteous man (v 19), who chose to obey God’s command rather than to observe rigidly a law that would have required him to divorce Mary publicly.   He resolved to divorce Mary quietly in order that he might not cause her unnecessary pain.  In doing so, he serves as a model of Christ-like compassion.  He also demonstrates a balance between the Law of Torah and the Law of Love. While Luke tells the story of the angel’s appearance to Mary (Luke 1:26-38), Matthew tells us only that the Child was conceived by the Holy Spirit.

The Divine intervention through the angel: Luke tells us of Mary’s obedience (Luke 1:38), and Matthew tells us of Joseph’s obedience. This is the first of three occasions on which an angel appears to Joseph in a dream.  In each instance, the angel calls Joseph to action, and Joseph obeys. He is told   not to be afraid of his fiancée’s pregnancy, nor of the opinion of his neighbors, nor even of the requirement of the Torah that Mary be punished.  He is not to hesitate, but is to wed Mary. “She will bear a Son, and you are to name Him Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” Mary’s role is to bear a son, and Joseph’s role is to name Him.  By naming him, Joseph makes Jesus his son and brings him into the house of David.

Jesus the Savior as the fulfillment of prophecy: The name, Jesus, is the Greek form of the Hebrew Yehosua, which means “YHWH is salvation.” Just as the first Joshua (successor of Moses), saved the Israelites from their enemies, the second Joshua (Jesus), will save them from their sins.  The Jews, however, did not expect a Messiah Who would save them from their sins, but one who would deliver them from their political oppressors. Matthew stresses the fact that the birth of Jesus as Savior is the fulfillment of a prophecy by Isaiah (7:14): “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,’ which means, ‘God is with us.'” The fulfillment of the prophecy is important to Matthew’s first audience, Jewish converts, which is why the evangelist mentions the fulfillment of eleven prophetic statements about Jesus in his Gospel.  The context of the verse taken from Isaiah is the dilemma of King Ahaz in the eighth century BC.  Jerusalem was under siege, and it appeared that both the city and the nation might be destroyed.  Isaiah’s prophecy was that a boy-child would be born and that, by the time he reached maturity, the threat from the enemy would have passed.  We do not know that boy’s identity, but the city and nation were both spared.

Emmanuel born of a virgin: The NRSV correctly translates ho parthenos as “the virgin” rather than “a virgin.”  In other words, the original uses the definite article.  Isaiah referred to a young woman (almah), but Matthew’s ho parthenos clearly refers to a virgin.  That is why the Church has always taught Mary’s perpetual virginity. “‘They shall name Him Emmanuel,’ which means, ‘God is with us.'” In Hebrew, El is a short form of Elohim, a name for God.  Immanu-El, therefore, means “God-with-us,” a meaning which Matthew spells out for non-Hebrew readers.  Emmanuel is not a second name by which friends and neighbors will know Jesus.  “Jesus” is Our Lord’s true name and Emmanuel describes his role.  Thus, Matthew begins his Gospel with the promise that Jesus’ role-name means “God-with-us.”  He will end his Gospel with Jesus’ promise that he will be with us “always, to the end of the age” (28:20).

Life messages: 1) We need to look for Jesus in unlikely places and persons.   During the Christmas season we, like the Magi, must give our most precious gift, our lives to Jesus.  We will learn to discover Him in the most unlikely places and in the most distasteful people – in those who are suffering or in distress, poverty or fear. The message of Christmas is that we can truly find Jesus if we look in the right places – in the streets, in slums, in asylums, in orphanages, in nursing homes – starting in our own homes, workplaces and town. We need to look for Him in people that we might otherwise ignore: the homeless, the sick, the addict, the unpleasant person, the rebel, or the person of different culture and lifestyle from us.  True Christmas is about celebrating the coming of God among the poor, the homeless and the disadvantaged with a message of hope and liberation for these sufferers in our world.  It is about our responsibility to be part of that liberating process.  It is about working to remove the shameful blot of poverty, discrimination and exploitation that is the lot of too many in our environment of prosperity. God challenges us to be like the shepherds who overcame their fear in order to seek out Jesus, or like the Wise Men who traveled a long distance to find Him. Then we will have the true experience of Christmas – the joy of the Savior.

2) We need to allow the Savior to be reborn in our lives.   Let us remember the famous lines of Alexander Pope: “What do I profit if Jesus is born in thousands of cribs all over the world during this Christmas, but is not born in my heart?”   Let us allow Him to be reborn in our lives during Christmas 2016 and every day of the New Year 2017. How should we prepare for Christ’s rebirth in our daily lives? As a first step, John the Baptist urges us to repent daily of our sins and to renew our lives by leveling the hills of pride and selfishness, by filling up the valleys of impurity, and by straightening the crooked paths of hatred. Our second step in preparing for Christ’s rebirth in our daily lives is to cultivate the spirit of sacrifice and humility.   It was by sacrifice that the shepherds of Bethlehem and the Magi were able to find the Savior. They were humble enough to see God in the Child in the manger.   We too can experience Jesus by sharing Him with others, just as God shared His Son with us.  Let us remember that the angels wished peace on earth only to those able to receive that peace, those who possessed the good will and largeness of heart to share Jesus our Savior with others in love, kindness, mercy, forgiveness and humble service.

JOKE OF THE WEEK: 1) A 4-year-old boy was asked to give the blessing before Christmas dinner. The family members bowed their heads in expectation. He began his prayer, thanking God for all his friends, naming them one by one. Then he thanked God for Mommy, Daddy, brother, sister, Grandma, Grandpa, and all his aunts and uncles. Then he began to thank God for the food. He gave thanks for the turkey, the dressing, the fruit salad, the cranberry sauce, the pies, the cakes– even the Cool Whip. Then he paused, and everyone waited–and waited. After a long silence, the young fellow looked up at his mother and asked, “If I thank God for the broccoli, won’t He know that I’m lying?”

2) Mrs. Oppenheimer decided to get away from the often inclement weather of New York and spend Christmas in the Deep South. Being unfamiliar with that part of the world she wandered into a ‘restricted’ hotel and said “Hi. I’m Mrs. Oppenheimer and I’d like a room for the next week.” “I’m very sorry,’ said the manager, “but all our rooms are taken.”  Just as he said these words a customer came to the desk and unexpectedly checked out. “How lucky!” responded Mrs. Oppenheimer, “Now you have a room for me.” “Look, I’m very sorry,” said the manager, “but this is a restricted hotel. Jews are not allowed here.” “Jewish! Whaddya mean Jewish? I am a Catholic.” “That takes some believing,” said the manager. “Tell me, Who was the Son of God?” “Jesus.” she replied “Where was he born?” “In a stable in Bethlehem….. simply because some schmuck like you wouldn’t rent a room to a Jew.”

3) A family celebrated Christmas every year with a birthday party for Jesus. An extra chair of honor at the table became the family’s reminder of Jesus’ presence. A cake with candles, along with the singing of “Happy Birthday” expressed the family’s joy in Jesus’ presence. One year on Christmas afternoon a visitor to the home asked the five-year-old girl, “Did you get everything you wanted for Christmas?” After a moment’s hesitation, she answered, “No, but it’s not my birthday, It’s Jesus’ birthday!”  LP

(“Scriptural Homilies” Cycle C- No. 6 b by Fr. Tony (akadavil@gmail.com)

Synopsis: Christmas Midnight Is 9:1-6; Titus 2:11-14; Lk 2:1-14

Introduction: Today we celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, which occurred some 2,000 years ago. Looking through the telescope of Christ’s Resurrection, the New Testament authors, as well as the Fathers of the Church, reexamined foreshadowings of the coming of Jesus, the Messiah, in the writings of the prophets and discovered that Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah.

Scripture readings, summarized: Following the death of the Assyrian monarch in the late 8th century B.C., the prophet Isaiah prophesies relief for both Northern and Southern Kingdoms of Israel through a new king and his descendant in the line of David, in the person of Jesus. He is the child Isaiah’s prophecy describes as the “prince of peace” The second reading, taken from the “pastoral letter” of Paul to Titus, tells us that it is only by the saving power of God in Christ that we are enabled to live virtuously in the present with hope for the future. The Gospel for the Midnight Mass tells us how Jesus was born in Bethlehem and how the news of his birth was first announced to shepherds by the angels. Since David was a shepherd, it seems fitting that the shepherds were given the privilege of visiting David’s successor in the stable. If these shepherds were the ones in charge of the Temple sheep and lambs which were meant for daily sacrifice in the Temple of Jerusalem, no wonder they were chosen to be the first to see the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world!

Life messages: 1) We need to reserve a room for Jesus in our heart: Christmas asks us a tough question. Do we close the doors of our hearts to Jesus looking for a place to be reborn in our lives? There is no point in being sentimental about the doors slammed by the folks in Bethlehem, if there is no room in our own hearts for the same Jesus coming in the form of the needy. We need to reverence each human life, and to treat others respectfully as the living residences of the Incarnate God. To neglect the old, to be contemptuous of the poor or to have no thought for the unemployed and the lonely, is to ignore those individuals with whom Christ has so closely identified Himself. Hence, we all need to examine ourselves daily on the doors we close to Jesus.

2) We need to experience Jesus the Emmanuel: The real meaning of Christmas actually is Emmanuel, God-with-us – God coming down to us; God coming alongside us; God seeking us out; God revealing Himself to us; God bringing us forgiveness, healing, comfort, moral strength, guidance. Each one of us has, deep down in our souls, an incredible hunger: a hunger for purpose and meaning; a hunger to feel and celebrate the redeeming, forgiving, sustaining love of God; a hunger to be in the presence of God. Christmas is special because it reminds us concretely that God is indeed with us. In every circumstance of life, even when we are frightened or lonely or in sorrow, God is with us. So let’s go home to the heart of Christmas and embrace Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.

CHRISTMAS MIDNIGHT MASS: Is 9:1-6; Ti 2:11-14; Lk 2:1-14

Anecdotes: 1) “Don’t go! You can have my room.” Nine-year-old Wally was in second grade when most children his age were fourth-graders. He was big for his years, a clumsy fellow, a slow learner. But Wally was a hopeful, willing, smiling lad, a natural defender of the underdog, and he was well-liked by his classmates. His parents encouraged him to audition for the annual parish Christmas play. Wally wanted to be a shepherd. Instead, he was given the role of the innkeeper. The director reasoned that Wally’s size would lend extra force to the innkeeper’s refusal of lodging to Joseph. During rehearsals, Wally was instructed to be firm with Joseph. When the play opened, no one was more caught up in the action than Wally. And when Joseph knocked on the door of the inn, Wally was ready. He flung the door open and asked menacingly, “What do you want?” “We seek lodging,” Joseph replied. “Seek it elsewhere,” Wally said in a firm voice. “There’s no room in the inn.” “Please, good innkeeper,” Joseph pleaded, “this is my wife, Mary. She is with child and is very tired. She needs a place to rest.” There was a long pause as Wally looked down at Mary. The prompter whispered Wally’s next line: “No! Be gone!” Wally remained silent. Then the forlorn couple turned and began to slowly move away. Seeing this, Wally’s brow creased with concern. Tears welled up in his eyes. Suddenly, he called out, “Don’t go! You can have my room.”

Introduction: The season of Advent is past and the period of anticipation is complete. Now it is time to commemorate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, which occurred some 2,000 years ago. Looking through the telescope of Christ’s Resurrection, the New Testament authors, as well as the Fathers of the Church, reexamined the writings of the prophets to discover foreshadowings of the coming of Jesus, the Messiah. Today’s first reading is one of these taken, from the greatest of the prophets, Isaiah. The second reading, taken from the “pastoral letter” of Paul to Titus, tells us that it is only by the saving power of God in Christ that we are enabled to live virtuously in the present with hope for the future. The Gospel for the Midnight Mass tells us how Jesus was born in Bethlehem and how the news of his birth was first announced to shepherds by the angels.

First reading, Isaiah 9:1-6, explained : In the late eighth century BC, God’s people in the Promised Land had become divided into a Northern Kingdom, Israel, and a Southern Kingdom, Judah. Assyria was the dominant power in the region, particularly oppressing the Northern Kingdom. In the eighth century BC, the source of the “darkness” was the Assyrian invasion under Tiglath-Pilesar III. But following the death of the Assyrian monarch, the prophet declares that in the darkness, light has shone! Hope for endless peace, justice, and righteousness has been kindled and burns brightly. Isaiah prophesies relief for both Northern and Southern Kingdoms in the person of the new king who will come to the throne in the Southern Kingdom, Judah, and will see to the reunion of the North and South and the expulsion of the Assyrians from the North. The king whom Isaiah had in mind is, interestingly, Hezekiah, the successor of King Ahaz. So “the people once in darkness” are the dwellers in Israel oppressed by Assyria. The “child/son born to us” is the new King in Jerusalem in Judah. He inherits the throne of David whose glorious reign, roughly four centuries earlier, was still the source of national pride and hope. Some 2700 years later, we see Jesus, the Incarnate Son of God and Son of David, the Redeemer and Savior of the world, in this promised King.

Today’s passage in Isaiah 9 completes a prophecy begun in Isaiah 8:1. In spite of all the doom and gloom that surround Israel, and the evil that darkness portends, there will eventually be light and restoration for Israel. The yoke and bar, spoken of in v 4, represent enslavement and oppression. Those will be cast off vigorously as in the days of Gideon and the Midianites (Judges 8:10-12; Psalm 83:9-11). The prophecy concludes with the now-famous words: “For a child has been born for us, a son given for us…..” What follows is a description of the yet to be realized kingdom of Christ (v 6). Notice the many titles given to the coming child: Wonderful Counselor — counsel, as in advice; Mighty God — an image of power and majesty; Everlasting Father — one Who will not diminish, expire, or fade away: an eternal relationship of nurture and trust; Prince of Peace — not war-like, but reconciling.

Second Reading, Titus 2:11-14, explained: The books of Titus and 1st and 2nd Timothy are called “pastoral letters” because they are instructions to the pastors dealing with Church life and practices. This reading is an interesting choice for Christmas Midnight Mass because it focuses on the other coming of Jesus, at the end of time, and on the changes that we are called to make in our lives. It reminds us that we are enabled to live virtuously in the present, with hope for the future, by the saving power of God in Christ. So its theological plainness and moral starkness make it a worthy counterpoint to the sentimentality that dominates Christmas.

Gospel exegesis: The origin of the Christmas celebration: Many scholars believe that Christmas came to be placed on December 25th in order to counteract a pagan celebration called the Birth of the Unconquered Sun, a feast established by the Roman Emperor, Aurelian, in AD 274. Since December 25th was near the date of the winter solstice (the year’s shortest day, after which the days begin to lengthen again, showing the victory of the sun over darkness), it was chosen as the date of rejoicing. When Christianity was approved as the official religion of the Roman Empire, the Church chose this day to celebrate the birth of the true Sun – the Son of God Who conquers the power of darkness. Another theory gives Biblical support for celebrating Christmas on the 25th of December. It claims that the annunciation of the birth of John the Baptist to Zachariah occurred during the feast of Yom Kippur, around September 25th, placing the birth of John after nine months on June 25th. Since the angel tells Mary that Elizabeth is in the sixth month of her pregnancy, the Annunciation event and the conception of Jesus took place around March 25th leading to Jesus’ birth after nine months, around December 25th.

The Christmas event: While Matthew places the birth of Jesus against the background of Herod’s reign, Luke places it against the background of the Roman Empire. It is generally accepted that Jesus was born in 4 B.C. Luke begins by making a subtle contrast between Caesar Augustus who failed as an inaugurator of peace, and Jesus the Savior and bringer of peace. Both Tertullian and Justin Martyr (c. 165) state that in their time the records of the 4 B.C. census still existed along with those of 28 B.C., 8 B.C. and 14 A.D. In the Roman Empire, a census was taken periodically with the double object of assessing taxation and of discovering those who were liable for compulsory military service. Another hidden aim was to find out the true descendants of King David who had a claim to the throne as the king of the Jews. Luke’s purpose in mentioning the census was to provide God’s reason for, and means of, getting Mary and Joseph the roughly eighty miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem, the city of David, wherein the promised heir of David was to be born, as prophesied by Micah (5:1). Bethlehem was commonly thought of as the city of David because of David’s birth and childhood there. Since travelers brought their own food, the innkeeper provided only fodder for the animals and a fire for cooking along with a spot to sleep within his walls. A manger is a feeding trough (food box) and it symbolizes the sacrificial meal that Jesus becomes, which provides sustenance for the whole world. Father Raymond Brown in his masterful book on the Infancy Narratives says that these stories are theologumena, not so much literal history but stories with a theological point – the other gratuitous and revolutionary impact of Jesus’ birth, life and death. The important thing to remember is that they are stories of God’s love and Jesus’ role in history, written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to reveal His Truth to us, and that’s what counts, not historical details.

The first visitors: Since David was a shepherd, it seems fitting that the shepherds were given the privilege of visiting David’s successor in the stable. If these shepherds were the ones in charge of the Temple sheep and lambs which were meant for daily sacrifice in the Temple of Jerusalem, no wonder they were chosen to be the first to see the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world! Shepherding was a lonely, dirty job, and shepherds found it difficult to follow all the obligatory religious customs. Hence, they were scorned as non-observant Jews. So Baby Jesus selected these marginalized people to share His love at the beginning of his earthly ministry. The shepherds expressed their joy and gratitude by “making known what had been told them” (v 17). Just as very ordinary people later became witnesses to the Resurrection, very ordinary shepherds became witnesses to the Incarnation. Other than the angels, they were the first to proclaim the Good News of Jesus’ birth. Once we have been privileged to experience God’s presence, we, too, have a responsibility to share that experience with other people — to spread the word — to proclaim the Gospel.

Good news of great joy:But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see–I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, Who is the Messiah, the Lord.” Perhaps because Luke was a Gentile convert, he establishes at the beginning of this Gospel that Jesus is for all the people — not just for the people of Israel: “… a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord” (v. 11). The Romans thought of Augustus as savior. However, Augustus’ peace was fragile. After his death, other men would assume power — men like Nero and Caligula, whose names would be synonymous with treachery and cruelty. The angels introduced a different kind of Savior — a Savior who would continue His saving work throughout human history. The Savior of the First Century is also the Savior of the Twenty-first Century. The Savior of Israel is also the Savior of the World.

Glory to God and peace on earth: The angels welcomed Jesus’ birth singing: “Glory to God in the highest heaven” (v 14). Later, the crowds would welcome Jesus to Jerusalem, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in Heaven, and glory in the highest Heaven!” (19:38). That peace is the shalom of God – life experienced in all its fullness, richness, and completeness in accord with the will of God. The angelic song conveys the message that true peace on earth is available only to those able to receive it, that is with the good will to do the will of God, and thus to give Him glory.

Christmas is not just one day but a season which lasts for twelve days, concluding on Epiphany (Twelfth Night). The extension of the feast should remind us to continue to share our joy at the comings of the Messiah – the first some 2000 years ago, the last at our death or at the Parousia, the “Second coming,” for which we all pray (Eucharistic acclamation – “We proclaim Your Death, O Lord, and profess Your Resurrection, until You come again”), and all those occurring between the two, as we live our daily lives. As we celebrate the Incarnation of the Word of God this Christmas, we might make a conscious effort, both to remember that Jesus is always with us in our hearts and in the Eucharist, and to share our joy in His presence with others.

Life messages:

1) We need to reserve a room for Jesus in our heart: Christmas asks us a tough question. Do we close the doors of our hearts to Jesus looking for a place to be reborn in our lives? There is no point in being sentimental about the doors slammed by the folks in Bethlehem, if there is no room in our own hearts for the same Jesus coming in the form of the needy. We need to reverence each human life, and to treat others respectfully as the living residences of the Incarnate God. To neglect the old, to be contemptuous of the poor or to have no thought for the unemployed and the lonely, is to ignore those individuals with whom Christ has so closely identified Himself. Hence, we all need to examine ourselves daily on the doors we close to Jesus.

2) We need to experience Jesus the Emmanuel: The real meaning of Christmas actually is Emmanuel, God-with-us – God coming down to us; God coming alongside us; God seeking us out; God revealing Himself to us; God bringing us forgiveness, healing, comfort, moral strength, guidance. Each one of us has, deep down in our soul, an incredible hunger: a hunger for purpose and meaning; a hunger to feel and celebrate the redeeming, forgiving, sustaining love of God; a hunger to be in the presence of God. Christmas is special because it reminds us concretely that God is indeed with us. In every circumstance of life, even when we are frightened or lonely or in sorrow, God is with us. So let’s go home to the heart of Christmas and embrace Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.

JOKES OF THE WEEK

1) A few days before Christmas, two young brothers were spending the night at their grandparent’s house. When it was time to go to bed, anxious to do the right thing, they both knelt down to say their prayers.
Suddenly, the younger one began to do so in a very loud voice. “Dear Lord, please ask Santa Claus to bring me a play-station, a mountain-bike and a telescope.”
His older brother leaned over and nudged his brother and said, “Why are you shouting your prayers? God isn’t deaf.”
“I know,” he replied. “But Grandma is!”

2) The 3 stages of man:

He believes in Santa Claus.
He doesn’t believe in Santa Claus.
He becomes Santa Claus.

3) A friend was in front of me coming out of Church one day, and the preacher was standing at the door as he always is to shake hands. He noticed a young man who showed up in the church for Christmas and Easter as Poinsettias and Easter Lilies do. He grabbed my friend by the hand and pulled him aside. Pastor said, “You need to join the Army of the Lord!” My friend said, “I’m already in the Army of the Lord, Pastor.” Pastor questioned, “How come I don’t see you except at Christmas and Easter?” He whispered back, “I’m in the Secret Service.” LP

(“Scriptural Homilies” Cycle C- No. 6 c by Fr. Tony)

One-page summary: Christmas Dawn Mass (Is 62:11-12; Ti 3: 4-7; Lk 2:15-20)

Introduction: The main theme of this Mass at Dawn is an invitation to enjoy, by a life of sharing love, the lasting peace and celestial joy brought by the Divine Savior.  St. John gives the main reason for our Christmas joy in his Gospel (3:16): “For God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son, so that every one who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life.” God showed His love for sinful man by sharing His love with us in His Son, incarnate as Jesus in Bethlehem, Who, in turn, saved us by His suffering, death and Resurrection.

Scripture lessons summarized: In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah shows the Jews their God as a saving God Who will extend His redemption to His holy city. In the second reading, St. Paul tells Titus that God saves us through His Son Jesus, not because we have deserved it by our good deeds, but because of His mercy. Jesus continues His saving mission by allowing us to be reborn by water and the Holy Spirit, thus enabling us to become God’s children and heirs of eternal life.  Describing the response of the shepherds to the angelic message, today’s Gospel invites us to offer ourselves as a gift to Jesus, our Lord and Savior, and to bear witness to Him through our lives by sharing love with others.

Life messages: 1) We need to be Christ-bearers and Christ-givers:  Since it is Jesus Who gives real meaning to our celebrations, Jesus must be reborn in us each time we celebrate Christmas.   Hence, let us leave a “room in the inn” of our hearts for Jesus to be reborn in our lives. Let us remember the famous lines of Alexander Pope: “What do I profit if Jesus is born in thousands of cribs all over the world during this Christmas, if He is not born in my heart?”  So let us pray for the grace of Jesus’ birth in each one of us today, bringing us love, mercy, kindness and compassion to give away.  Let us help all those around us to experience the newly-born Savior – Jesus within us – as sharing love in the form of compassionate words, unconditional love and forgiveness, selfless service, merciful deeds and overflowing generosity.   2) We need to listen to God speaking to us every day and respond promptly, as the shepherds did: There isn’t one of us in this Church this morning who hasn’t had God speak to him or her in some personal way. It may not have happened as dramatically as it did with these shepherds, but God has indeed spoken to our soul and spirit. Too often, however, we have chosen not to listen. Have we ever had an argument with a member of our family, and heard that inner voice deep down within us telling us to stop, and we knew we should stop? Have we ever had that same inner sense of knowing we needed to do something or to avoid doing something? That was the voice of the Holy Spirit speaking to us, the Spirit sent to us by the Father at the request of Jesus our Savior. Whether or not we chose to listen in those cases really isn’t the point. The point is that God has indeed spoken to us and He continues to speak to us right now. How are we going to respond? Will we respond as Mary did, as the shepherds did and as the magi did? Or not? LP

CHRISTMAS MASS AT DAWN: Is 62: 11-12; Ti 3:4-7; Lk 2:15-20

(The theme: The joy and peace of the Savior through sharing love)

Anecdote: #1) Sharing the sorrow of chemotherapy: An 11-year-old boy with cancer lost all the hair on his head as a result of chemotherapy treatment.  When the time came for him to return to school, he and his parents experimented with hats, wigs, and bandanas to try to conceal his baldness.  They finally settled on a baseball cap, but the boy still feared the taunts he would receive for looking “different.”  Mustering up courage, he went to school wearing his cap – and discovered to his great surprise that all of his friends had shaved their heads to share their solidarity with their friend.   It was their way of expressing their love and sympathy. No wonder God became man to express His love for mankind!

Introduction: The readings for this Mass at Dawn offer us an invitation to enjoy, by a life of sharing love, the lasting peace and celestial joy brought by the Divine Savior. St. John gives the main reason for our Christmas joy in his Gospel (3:16): “For God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life.” God showed His love for sinful man by sharing His love with us in the form of Jesus in Bethlehem. Jesus, in turn, saved us by His suffering, death and Resurrection. In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah shows the Jews their God as a saving God Who will extend His redemption to His Holy City. In the second reading, St. Paul tells Titus that God saves us through His Son Jesus, not because we have deserved it by our good deeds, but because of His mercy. Jesus continues His saving mission by allowing us to be reborn by water and the Holy Spirit, thus enabling us to become God’s children and heirs of eternal life. Describing the response of the shepherds to the angelic message, today’s Gospel invites us to offer ourselves as a gift to Jesus, our Lord and Savior, and to bear witness to Him through our lives, by sharing love with others.

First reading, Isaiah 62:11-12, explained: Around 600 BC, the Babylonians took the Jews out of the Promised Land and kept them in exile (the Babylonian Captivity), for about 70 years. When Cyrus, a new Persian emperor, took over Babylon, he sent the Jews home. This reading is set in that troubled period, when Judah was trying to put itself back together after returning from Exile. Daughter Zion means (the people of) the city, Jerusalem. This was Judah’s capital, in the center of which stands Mount Zion, the Temple awaited rebuilding. The gist of this short passage is that the people should keep up their spirits, because soon they and their city will enjoy prosperity and international renown again, and their city will frequently be visited by tourists, instead of remaining a ghost city. In other words, God’s own people are going to experience the saving and providing love of their God.

Second Reading, Titus 3:4-7, explained: This passage is classic Pauline teaching, showing us that God saves us by incorporating us into Christ which is the real cause of Christian, and Christmas, joy. Among the congregation served by the early Bishop Titus were Christians who believed they had to practice the laws of Judaism and to impose those laws on pagan converts to Christ. Paul reminds them that God saved us “not because of any righteous deeds we had done, but because of His mercy.” In other words, law-driven righteous deeds don’t win our salvation; God gives it to us freely. We accept that gift by taking the bath of rebirth, Baptism, when the Spirit is richly poured out on us. This, not our observance of laws, makes us justified (right with God), and that “justification” gives us the hope of eternal life.

Gospel exegesis: The shepherds, the first visitors and the first missionaries: The orthodox Jews in Jesus’ time despised the shepherds because these men were quite unable to observe the ceremonial laws in all their details. In addition, shepherds had no spare time to take part in synagogue services nor to study Torah because shepherding was a full-time job. These shepherds with whom Jesus chose to share His love on Christmas day might have been the special shepherds in charge of the Temple sheep which were set aside for the daily morning and evening sacrifice of unblemished lambs. If so, no wonder their shepherds were blessed with the unique privilege of seeing the Divine Child – “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”! They responded to this great privilege by bearing witness to God, by praising God and by spreading the news of the birth of a Savior. “Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as it had been told to them.” Christmas, the feast of Emmanuel – God is with us – challenges us to be like the shepherds who overcame fear to find Him, or like the Magi who traveled and searched for Him. We should have the generosity and good will to search for Him and find Him in unlikely places and persons. That is made possible for us only if we welcome Jesus in Bethlehem into our lives by allowing Him to be reborn in us. Then we will have the real experience of Christmas – and the joy of the Savior.

The angelic choir and their angelic message: Normally, when a boy was born into a Jewish family, the local musicians congregated at the house to greet him with country music. Since Jesus was born in a stable, the angels sang the songs for Jesus that the earthly singers could not sing. The angels told the shepherds to rejoice because the Savior had come:  Luke 2: 10-11: “Don’t be afraid.   I am here with Good News for you, which will bring great joy to all people.   This very day in David’s town, a Savior has been born for you – Christ the Lord.” We rejoice today with those shepherds because we have a Savior who can free us from the bondage of sin.   We have a Savior who liberates us from our slavery to impure, unjust and uncharitable thoughts, desires and habits.   We have a Savior Who can, and will, release us from our evil addictions, heal our physical and mental diseases and free us from hatred, enmity, jealousy and bitterness.

Saviors and the Savior:  History tells us that there has been no shortage of false liberators and pseudo-saviors who have deceived generations of people all around the world.   The Greek philosophers believed that education and knowledge would liberate the world.   Later, rationalists like Voltaire and Rousseau taught that mere human reason, alone, provided an antidote for all human ills.   Revolutionary movements, such as Communism, have offered mankind the dream of an earthly paradise.   Today, many people advocate science as the solution for all human problems, while others turn to liquor, drugs or other pleasures to escape their troubles.   Our century has witnessed the uncontrolled use of sex as a false liberating instrument, and Eastern mystical experiences and modern psychological techniques as routes to peace of mind and heart.   Despite the claims of these various panaceas, however, the true remedy for our ills, as every Christmas reminds us, is Jesus, our Divine Savior Who, alone, can give us both true liberation and lasting peace and joy.

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will.” Christmas gives us the message of lasting peace, which we can possess only by sharing our blessings with others.  This is the message contained in the celestial song of the angels, reported in Luke’s Gospel:   “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to people of good will.”   Christmas reminds us that God shared His love by giving us His Son.  Hence, we must share our health, wealth, talents and blessings with others.   Just as Jesus shared His love with the poor shepherds and the humble Magi, we, too, are called to share our love with the less fortunate people around us. Sharing with love is the sign that one has the “good will” of which the angel spoke. The peace of Christmas is promised only to such large-hearted people, for only they are able to receive it.

 

Life messages: 1) We need to become Christ-bearers and Christ-givers:  Since it is Jesus Who gives real meaning to our celebrations, Jesus must be reborn in us each time we celebrate Christmas.   Hence, let us leave a “room in the inn” of our hearts for Jesus to be reborn in our lives. Let us remember the famous lines of Alexander Pope: “What do I profit if Jesus is born in thousands of cribs all over the world during this Christmas, if He is not born in my heart?”  So let us pray for the grace of Jesus’ birth in each one of us today, bringing us love, mercy, kindness and compassion to give away.  Let us help all those around us to experience the newly-born Savior – Jesus within us – as sharing love in the form of compassionate words, unconditional forgiveness, selfless service, merciful deeds and overflowing generosity.

2) We need to listen to God speaking to us every day and respond promptly, as the shepherds did: There isn’t one of us in this Church this morning who hasn’t had God speak to him or her in some personal way. It may not have happened as dramatically as it did with these shepherds, but God has indeed spoken to our soul and spirit. Too often, however, we have chosen not to listen. Have we ever had an argument with a member of our family, and heard that voice deep down within us telling us to stop, and we knew we should stop? Have we ever had that same inner sense of knowing we needed to do something or to avoid doing something? That was the voice of the Holy Spirit speaking to us, the Spirit sent to us by the Father at the request of Jesus our Savior. Whether or not we chose to listen in those cases really isn’t the point. The point is that God has indeed spoken to us, and He continues to speak to us right now. How are we going to respond? Will we respond as Mary did, as the shepherds did and as the magi did? Or not?

JOKE OF THE DAY: 1) A four-year-old girl went with a group of family and friends to see the Christmas lights, displayed at various locations throughout the city. At one church, they stopped and got out to look more closely at a beautiful nativity scene. “Isn’t that beautiful?” said the little girl’s grandmother. “Look at all the animals, Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus.”
“Yes, Grandma,” replied the granddaughter. “It is really nice. But there is only one thing that bothers me. Isn’t Baby Jesus ever going to grow up…? He’s the same size he was last year!”

2) Some children were asked what love is. The responses were quite interesting and instructive for us adults. One said, “Love is when my mommy makes a cup of coffee for my daddy and takes a little taste before she gives it to him to make sure it tastes okay.” Another said, “Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you’ve left him alone all day.” Another response was, “You really shouldn’t say, ’I love you’ unless you really mean it, but if you mean it, you should say it a lot. People forget.” One boy said, “When someone loves you, the way they call your name is different. You just know that your name is safe in their mouth.” And finally seven-year-old Bobby said, “Love is what’s in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen.”

3) Typical of last minute Christmas shoppers, a mother was running furiously from store to store. Suddenly she became aware that the pudgy little hand of her three-year-old son was no longer clutched in hers. In a panic, she retraced her steps and found him standing with his little nose pressed flat against a frosty window. He was gazing at a manger scene. Hearing his mother’s near hysterical call, he turned and shouted with innocent glee, “Look Mommy! It’s Jesus – Baby Jesus in the hay!” With obvious indifference to his joy and wonder, she impatiently jerked him away saying, “We don’t have time for that!” LP

(“Scriptural Homilies” Cycle C- No. 6 d by Fr. Tony

One-page summary: Christmas Day Mass(Is 52:7-10; Heb 1:1-6; Jn 1:1-18/1:1-5,9-14)

Introduction: While Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus goes back to Abraham, and Luke’s genealogy to Adam, John’s genealogy goes back to  God Himself. John travels to eternity to reveal to us the theology of Christmas. While the Gospel selections for the Vigil, Midnight and Dawn Masses describe the history of Christmas, the selection from John’s Gospel for this Daytime Mass lifts us out of history into the realm of mystery—His wonderful Name is the Word. The reading tells us that the Baby in the manger is the Word of God, the very Self-expression of God.

Scripture lessons summarized: The first reading gives us the assurance that, just as Yahweh restored His chosen people to their homeland after the Babylonian exile, Jesus, the Savior, will restore mankind to the Kingdom of God.  In the second reading, St. Paul tells us how God Who had conveyed  His words to us in the past through His prophets sent His own Son, so that He might  demonstrate to us humans, by His life, death and Resurrection, the real nature of our God.  John’s Gospel gives us a profoundly theological vision of Christ, the result of John’s years of preaching and of meditating on this wondrous mystery of God’s love. While stressing the Divinity of Christ, he leaves no doubt as to the reality of Jesus’ human nature.  In the Prologue of his Gospel, John introduces the birth of Jesus as the dawning of the Light Who will remove the darkness of evil from the world. He explains later in his Gospel why light is the perfect symbol of Christmas:  Jesus said “I am the Light of the world,” (Jn 8:12) and “You are the light of the world” (Mt 5:14-16).

Life Messages: 1) A day to remember and a day to wait for:  Today, while we remember and celebrate God’s first coming into our world in human form, we also look forward, because the liturgy we celebrate reminds us that the Lord is going to return in his Second Coming.  The liturgy calls on us to prepare His way, to be ready to be judged by Him.  In addition to these two “comings,” the Church teaches us that Christ comes to us every day through the Holy Eucharist, the Holy Bible and the worshipping community. We are asked to inaugurate Christ’s Kingdom in our lives by allowing Him to be born in us, by recognizing Him in others and by courageously going forth to build His Kingdom of love, justice, peace and holiness in our world.

2) We need to remember that there is no room in the manger except for Jesus and us: There isn’t room in the manger for all the baggage we carry around with us.  There’s no room for our pious pride and self-righteousness.  There’s no room for our human power and prestige.  There’s no room for the baggage of past failure and unforgiven sin.  There’s no room for our prejudice, bigotry and jingoistic national pride.  There’s no room for bitterness and greed.  There is no room in the manger for anything other than the absolute reality of who and what we really are: very human, very real, very fragile, very vulnerable human beings who desperately need the gift of love and grace which God so lavishly gives us through the Sacraments, through the Holy Bible and during our prayers. LP

CHRISTMAS DAY: Is 52:7-10; Heb 1:1-6; Jn 1:1-18 or 1: 1-5, 9-14

Anecdotes: 1) A vision test: Once there was a Rabbi who asked his disciples the following question:  “How do you know when the darkness has been overcome, when the dawn has arrived?” One of the disciples answered, “When you can look into the distance and tell the difference between a cow and a deer, then you know dawn has arrived.” “Close,” the Rabbi responded, “but not quite.” Another disciple ventured a response, “When you can look into the distance and distinguish a peach blossom from an apple blossom, then you know that the darkness has been overcome.” “Not bad,” the Rabbi said, “not bad! But the correct answer is slightly different. When you can look on the face of any man or any woman and know immediately that this is God’s child and your brother or sister, then you know that the darkness has been overcome, that the Daystar has appeared.” This Christmas morning when we celebrate the victory of Light over darkness, the Gospel of John introduces Jesus as the true Light Who came from Heaven into our world of darkness to give us clear vision.

2) God is Light, and in Him is no darkness at all: Eight-year-old Benny died of AIDS in 1987. CBS made a movie drama about the trauma called Moving Toward the Light. As Benny lies dying in his mother’s arms, he asks, “What will it be like?” His mother whispers softly in his ear, “You will see a light, Benny, far away — a beautiful, shining light at the end of a long tunnel. And your spirit will lift you out of your body and start to travel toward the light. And as you go, a veil will be lifted from your eyes, and suddenly, you will see everything … but most of all, you will feel a tremendous sense of love.” “Will it take long?” Benny asks. “No,” his mother answers, “not long at all. Like the twinkling of an eye.” Many families have been devastated by AIDS. Amid the darkness and despair, an eight-year-old boy and his mother witnessed to the sustaining power of the light of God’s presence. They have touched the lives of a multitude of people. “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5 ).

Introduction: While Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus goes back to Abraham, the father of God’s people, and Luke’s genealogy of Jesus’ ancestry goes all the way back to Adam, thus embracing the whole human race, John goes back to God Himself. John is the only Gospel writer who does not stop at Bethlehem to explain the “reason for the season.” John is more concerned with the WHY and WHO of Christmas than with the WHERE of Christmas. So he travels to eternity to reveal the person of Jesus Christ. This is a great passage because it gives us the theology of Christmas. While the Gospel selections for the Vigil, Midnight and Dawn Masses describe the history of Christmas, the selection from John’s Gospel for this Daytime Mass lifts us out of history into the realm of mystery—His wonderful Name is the Word. The reading tells us that the Baby in the manger is the Word of God, the very Self-expression of God. He was present at creation; He is actually the One through Whom all things were made. The Prologue to the Gospel of John in today’s Gospel, and the Prologue to the Letter to the Hebrews in the second reading, are superb affirmations of the Person of Jesus Christ, expressed in beautiful theological words and metaphors. The first reading gives us the assurance that, just as Yahweh restored His chosen people to their homeland after the Babylonian exile, Jesus the Savior will restore mankind to the Kingdom of God. In the second reading, St. Paul tells us how God, Who had conveyed His words to us in the past through His prophets, sent His own Son so that He might demonstrate to us humans, by His life, death and Resurrection, the real nature of our God. John’s Gospel gives a profoundly theological vision of Christ, the result of John’s years of preaching and of meditating on this wondrous mystery of God’s love. While stressing the Divinity of Christ, he leaves no doubt as to the reality of his human nature. In the Prologue of his Gospel, John introduces the birth of Jesus as the dawning of the Light Who will remove the darkness of evil from the world. He explains later in his Gospel why light is the perfect symbol of Christmas: Jesus said “I am the Light of the world,” (Jn 8:12) and “You are the light of the world” (Mt 5: 14-16).

First reading, Isaiah 52:7-10 explained: This prophetic passage dates from the return of the Jews to their homeland at the end of the Babylonian Captivity. The setting is the desolate city, Jerusalem, awaiting the return of the exiles from Babylon. The city, personified, is rhetorically called “Zion,” after the hill in its midst where the Temple stood. Isaiah first imagines that the city can hear, even at a distance, the footsteps of her returning children. The returnees are pictured as singing exultantly, “Your God is King!” Then Jerusalem’s sentinels raise the cry of recognition, and join in the praise of God. Finally, the joyful people declare that all the earth will recognize the hand of God at work in their restoration. This return to Jerusalem, like the Exodus from Egypt centuries earlier, was a type or a foreshadowing of the greater Redemption that was to come through Jesus the Messiah. The re-possession of the land of Canaan for a few years; the restoring of Jerusalem and Judah, were but pale shadows of the great restoration and the possession of our eternal promised land which were to be given by the Messiah in the days to come, not only to Israel but to all nations.

Second Reading, Hebrews 1:1-6, explained: The addressees of the Letter to the Hebrews were Christian Jews who were beginning to feel the pain of separation from their fellow Jews who had refused to see Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah. The Christian Jews needed to be reminded that their relationship with Jesus more than filled the gaps in their religious lives caused by the loss of Temple ritual and the like, particularly as they were suffering the temptation to change back to the old law and the Jewish religion because of persecution from Judaizers. In the Letter to the Hebrews, St. Paul explains to them how superior the new Covenant is to the old. The letter begins with a comparison of how God formerly spoke to their ancestors and how God has now definitively spoken to them through Jesus. These six verses from the Letter’s first chapter were chosen for today’s reading because of the clear, definite and emphatic declaration of the Divinity of Christ, which they contain. Paul asserts that the Baby Who was born in a stable in Bethlehem, lived and died in Palestine, rose on the third day from the grave and ascended to heaven forty days later, was also God, equal to the Father in all things. This is a mystery beyond our human comprehension, yet it is a fact, stated by Christ himself, believed and preached by the Apostles and accepted by the Church for almost two thousand years. The whole reading is about the superiority of Jesus to everything and everyone else. Specifically it declares that Jesus is superior to angels. That Jesus is also, necessarily, superior to the institutions of Judaism from which the Hebrew Christians were cut off and for which they were feeling nostalgic, is implied in the passage.

Gospel exegesis: The paradox of the Incarnation: John the Evangelist proclaims the Incarnation of God, the most fundamental truth of Christianity, in the inspired words of his Prologue, making the connection between Jesus Christ and the Logos of God. Between the beautiful Nativity stories of Matthew and Luke and the Gospel of John, there lies the great paradox of the Christian Faith, the paradox of the Incarnation, the entering of God into the human story, in human form. The Prologue of John (1:1-18) can be divided into three sections: a) The Word’s relationship to the Creator and Creation (1:1-5), b) The Word’s relationship to John the Baptist (1:6-9) and c) The Word’s relationship to the world (1:10-18).

The theology of the word made flesh: Within thirty years of Jesus’ death the Christian Faith had traveled all over Asia Minor and Greece and had arrived in Rome. By AD 60, there must have been a hundred thousand Greeks in the Church for every Jew who had become a Christian. But Jewish ideas like the Messiah, the center of Jewish expectation, were completely strange to the Greeks. Hence, the very category in which the Jewish Christians conceived and presented Jesus meant nothing to the Greek Christians. So the problem which John faced was how to present Christianity to the Greek world around him in the Greek city of Ephesus where he lived. He found that, in both Greek and Jewish thought, there existed the concept of the “word.” For the eastern peoples, words had an independent, power-filled existence. The Greek term for word is Logos which not only means word, but also reason. Hence, whenever the Greeks used Logos, the twin ideas of the Word of God and the Reason of God were in their minds. That is why John introduces Jesus to the Greeks as the eternal, light-giving and creative power of God, or the Mind of God in poetical prose, in the very beginning of his Gospel. In his Prologue, John deals with the major themes like the pre-existence of the Word, God/Word and Father/Son as distinct but, at the same time, one; of Jesus as God, Life and Light; of the struggle between Light and darkness; of the power of the Light over darkness. According to John, the Word of God, Jesus, gives Life and Light.  Thus, John’s Prologue summarizes how the Son of God was sent into the world to become the Jesus of history, so that the glory and grace of God might be uniquely and perfectly disclosed. One of the Fathers of the Church (St Irenaeus) once said, “Gloria Dei, homo vivens,” (the glory of God is a person fully alive).  If that can be said of any of us, how much more must it be true of the Word made flesh?

John the Baptizer’s role: John the Baptist renewed the prophetic tradition after Israel’s four hundred years without a prophet. Since his ministry was so powerful, some people thought of him as the Messiah. Hence, John’s Gospel makes a number of references to John the Baptizer, always clearly establishing that he was subordinate to Jesus. He was not the Light, but came to bear witness to the Light (vv. 7-8). John’s mission was to bear testimony to the Light (Jesus) — to serve as a witness to the Light (v. 7). John died as a martyr because he showed the courage of his prophetic convictions by correcting Herod the king for his immoral life.

The Messiah rejected by his own people:He came to what was his own, and His own people did not accept Him” (v 11). Jesus “came home” where the people should have known Him. And it was the home folk, “His own,” the Israelites, the Chosen People, who did not receive Him. God had prepared them for centuries to receive the Messiah into their midst, but they rejected Him. This rejection of the Word by Jesus’ own people is restricted neither to the time of Jesus nor to that of the Fourth Gospel. Much of the world today is still in rebellion, “preferring darkness to Light, because its deeds are evil” (3:19-20). That is true of all of us at certain points in our lives, but we are not imprisoned in those moments. We can, as long as we are alive, turn to Him, repentant and believing, and become His own again. “But to all who received Him, who believed in His name, He gave power to become children of God” (v 12).

The Word became flesh and lived among us (v 14): The Word becoming flesh is the zenith of God’s Self-revelation. God, Who spoke earlier through the prophets, now speaks through his Son (Heb. 1:1-2), and lives among us. The Word Who dwelt with God now dwells with “us,” becoming a human being like us and thus bridging the great chasm between God’s world and our world. Verse 14 declares that the God Who once dwelt among them in the Tabernacle and the Temple, now chooses to dwell among them in the Person of Jesus. In the Old Testament, Moses was not allowed to see the face of God. Now, however, we are allowed to see Jesus’ glory — and His face. Thus, the Father is fully revealed to us, because, “Whoever has seen (the Son) has seen the Father” (John 14:9). The other Gospels depict the glory of God coming upon Jesus at the Transfiguration. John does not relate this incident, both because he sees the glory of God in all Jesus says and does, and because the hour for Jesus to be glorified is the crucifixion.

“We have all received, grace upon grace.” (v 16): The Word is full of grace and truth – attributes of God – attributes that the Word shares with God as the “Father’s only Son” (v 15). It is from this One Who is “full of grace and truth” that we receive “grace upon grace.” In other words, we draw grace from the total resources of God, an inexhaustible storehouse. Regardless of our need for grace, the supply is greater. Let us imagine ourselves standing on a sea-shore watching the waves roll in. They come every few seconds, and the supply never fails. That is how God’s grace comes to us. Let us at this Christmas time try to count just some of those “graces” showered on us. Verse 17 identifies the Word as Jesus: “The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” The Gift that is the Truth, Jesus, surpasses and perfects the former gift of the Law given through Moses. Note the contrasts between Moses and Jesus: We received the law through Moses, but we receive grace and truth through Jesus Christ (v 17). John’s Prologue begins by declaring that that the Word was God (v 1) and concludes (v 18), by proclaiming that the Son is God.

Life messages: 1) A day to remember and a day to wait for: Today, while we remember and celebrate God’s first coming into our world in human form, we also look forward because the liturgy we celebrate reminds us that the Lord is going to return in his Second Coming. However, Christ is going to return, not as a Child but as a Warrior, a Judge, a mighty Savior. The liturgy calls on us to prepare His way, to be ready to be judged by Him. So we are looking back and remembering the past coming of Jesus as our Savior, and looking forward and preparing for His future coming in glory as Judge to reward and punish. In addition to these two “comings,” the Church teaches us that Christ is here now, Christ is present, Christ comes to us today, Christ comes to us every day. Christmas is actually a celebration intended to heighten our awareness of the fact that Christ has been born, Christ lives, and Christ is present now in our lives. Christmas reminds us, through the lives of the people in the Christmas narrative, of the importance of helping to bring the presence of Christ to the world around us and of being sensitive to that presence when the Lord comes to us in the least expected people and in unexpected places and situations. We are asked to welcome Christ’s kingdom into our lives by allowing Him to be born in us, by recognizing Him in others and by courageously going forth with His grace to build His kingdom of love, justice, peace and holiness in our world.

2) We need to remember that there is no room in the manger except for Jesus and us: There isn’t room in the manger for all the baggage we carry around with us. There’s no room for our pious pride and self-righteousness. There’s no room for our human power and prestige. There’s no room for the baggage of past failure and unforgiven sin. There’s no room for our prejudice, bigotry and jingoistic national pride. There’s no room for bitterness and greed. There is no room in the manger for anything other than the absolute reality of who and what we really are: very human, very real, very fragile, very vulnerable human beings who desperately need the gift of love and grace which God so powerfully desires to give.

JOKE OF THE WEEK

1) It was Christmas Eve in a supermarket and a woman was anxiously picking over the last few remaining turkeys in the hope of finding a large one. In desperation she called over a shop assistant and said “Excuse me. Do these turkeys get any bigger?” “No” he replied, “They’re all dead”.

2) Just before Christmas, an honest politician, a generous lawyer and Santa Claus were riding in the elevator of a very posh hotel. Just before the doors opened they all noticed a $20 bill lying on the floor. Which one picked it up?
Santa of course, because the other two – an honest politician, a generous lawyer – don’t exist!

3) To avoid offending anybody, the school dropped religion altogether and started singing about the weather. At my son’s school, they now hold the winter program in February and sing increasingly non-memorable songs such as “Winter Wonderland,” “Frosty the Snowman” and–this is a real song–“Suzy Snowflake,” all of which is pretty funny because we live in Miami. A visitor from another planet would assume that the children belonged to the Church of Meteorology. (Chicago Tribune Magazine, July 28, 1991). L/16

4) But the machine can’t ask me about my arthritis.” : The true story is told of a woman named Mamie who made frequent trips to the branch post office. One day she confronted a long line of people who were waiting for service from the postal clerk. Mamie only needed stamps, so a helpful observer asked her, “Why don’t you just use the stamp machine? You can get all the stamps you need and you won’t have to wait in line.” Mamie said, “I know, but the machine can’t ask me about my arthritis.” That’s part of the wisdom of Christ’s coming to our earth to live among us as described in today’s gospel (John 3: 16-18). He could relate to us in all of our daily needs. As we try to walk in Jesus’ steps, we might do well to pray the ancient Irish poem set to an Irish ballad tune, which says, Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word; I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord; Heart of my own heart, whatever befall, Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.”

(“Scriptural Homilies” Cycle C- No. 6e by Fr. Tony (akadavil@gmail.com)

30 Christmas anecdotes are appended as attachment

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Fr. Anthony Kadavil, Chaplain, Little Sisters of the Poor, 1655 McGill Ave, Mobile, AL 36604

On this Christmas Day, May God put the Spirit of the Shepherds and the Spirit of the Wise Men and the spirit of Mary and Joseph in us. But, most important of all, May God put the spirit of Jesus in us. He wants to do that…. He wants to come into our hearts, but we have to let Him in.

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30- Additional Christmas anecdotes-2018

1) Jesus sells: One never tires of Jesus as a subject. The cover stories of Time, Newsweek, and US News & World Report regularly mark His Nativity. One reason for featuring Him so often is that their circulation invariably increases. Born twenty centuries ago, Jesus still sells. Mel Gibson broke all records with his DVD version of The Passion of the Christ. He sold nine million copies in three weeks at $22 a clip. The first book published by Pope Benedict XVI is called Jesus of Nazareth. It quickly found a home on the Best Seller list of The New York Times. Artists at their easels struggle to paint His portrait again.
Have you seen Andy Warhol’s Nativity? Composers struggle to salute Him with a fresh musical score. Will it ever be otherwise? I believe not.
Tell others of Jesus. But firstly, allow Him to be born in you. He can’t be born again, but we can. (Fr. James Gilhooley). Christmas trees are a big business (as you can imagine) in this country. Thirty-six million Christmas trees are produced in this country every year and more than one million acres of land have been planted in Christmas trees. Over 100,000 people work full time in the Christmas tree industry. More than 1 million acres of land in this country are dedicated just to planting Christmas trees. Roughly 21% of United States households will have a real tree in their home this year versus 48% that will have a fake tree. [www.urbanext.uiuc.edu/trees/treefacts.html].

2) He jumped into the hole: A student asked a Christian professor how Confucius and Buddha would differ from Christ. He responded with a parable. A woman fell into a deep hole. Try as she might, she could not climb out. Confucius looked in. He told her, “Poor woman, if you had paid attention to me, you would not have fallen in there in the first place.” Then he disappeared. Buddha approached. He too spotted the woman. He said to himself, “If she can just manage to get out of that hole, I can give her genuine aid.” He continued his journey. Along came Jesus. He spotted the woman. He was moved with pity. He jumped into the hole immediately to assist her out. This story illustrates the Incarnation. We gather here to celebrate the concern of God for each of us. His willingness to parachute into enemy-occupied territory in human form for our sakes is illustrated by the birth of His Son today. (CS Lewis).

3)”We’ll all be home for Christmas.” Senator John McCain spent 5½ years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam in the 1960s. During that time, he was frequently tortured or held in solitary confinement. He reports that his lowest point came on Christmas Eve 1969. McCain was giving up hope of ever getting out of Vietnam alive. To compound his homesickness, the captors played the song “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” over the PA system. Just then, McCain heard tapping on his cell wall. This was the communication code the POWs used to communicate with one another. On the other side of the wall was Ernie Bruce, a Marine who had been imprisoned for four years already. In spite of his dire situation, Bruce was tapping out, “We’ll all be home for Christmas. God bless America.” These simple words of comfort restored John McCain’s hope. [“The tapping on the wall” by Senator John McCain, Ladies’ Home Journal (July 2002), pp. 107-111.] The message of Christmas is always one of hope. This world needs saving, but God began that process of salvation two thousand years ago with the birth of a Baby in Bethlehem. There’s something about Christmas that elevates us. Christmas is about hope of a better world to come.

Related image 4) God’s Christmas gift: Would you like to know what is on record as the most expensive Christmas gift in the world? It is the Phoenix 1000. This is a 213 foot personal luxury submarine. Maybe there is a couple out there that lives on Lake Lanier, and this is something you could buy to impress all of your friends. This is the single largest private underwater vehicle ever built; it has a total interior area of 5000 square feet. It can make transatlantic crossings at 16 knots. A small automobile can be kept in the aft section of this submarine; it even has a mini-sub complete with its own docking area that can take your guests down to 2000 feet. Wrap it up and bring it home for only $78 million dollars! The Phoenix 1000 may be the most expensive Christmas gift in history, but it is not the most valuable Christmas gift, nor even is it the most costly. The Christmas gift that I want to talk about tonight is God’s Christmas Gift. It is His Son Jesus as our Savior. Though it is the most valuable and most costly gift ever given – get this – it is absolutely free.

5) The golden rice grains: There is a beautiful poem by the mystic poet of India, Rabindra Nath Tagore, extolling the reward of generous giving.   It tells the story of a king who regularly visited his people, passing through the streets in a chariot.  One morning as the king was passing by, a beggar woman who planned to ask him for alms, stood on the road side with her begging bowl.   As the king approached her, however, he descended from his chariot and stretched out his hand as though he was expecting a gift from the woman.   Excited and surprised, the woman put her hand in the cotton bag on her shoulder, took out a pinch of rice, and with trembling hands gave it to the king.  The king was well pleased; he smiled at her put her offering in his pocket and gave her back a pinch of grains from his other pocket.   When the woman returned to her small hut that evening and examined the grains she had gotten that day, she was surprised to find a few grains of gold in the rice.   You can imagine both her surprise and despair when she realized she should have given all her rice grains to the king. We are here to offer our gifts to Child Jesus in the manger as His birthday gift.  Let us remember that Jesus does not want our material gifts as much as He wants our selves, with all our weakness and temptations, our merits and demerits. Let our Christmas gift to him be a heart full of love and a strong and sincere resolution to share it generously with others.

6) “And all mankind will see God’s salvation.” Every year, former President Bush and his wife Laura used to send out a Christmas card with a Bible verse on it. For Christmas 2001, when the country was still coming to terms with the Sept. 11th attacks, the Bushes decided to choose a verse that conveyed their faith and hope. They picked this verse from the Psalms: “I believe I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” [An interview with First Lady Laura Bush by Ellen Levin, Good Housekeeping (Jan. 2002), pp. 105, 130.] That is the promise of Christmas. Isaiah put it like this: “Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. And all mankind will see God’s salvation.'” That is the hope that sustains us in good times and bad. We shall see God’s salvation. Christ came because the world needed saving.

7) “Man, you don’t mess around when you’re hungry!” Have you heard about the little boy who loved going to church? He enjoyed the music, the stained-glass windows, the homily and the fellowship. The only part about going to church that the little boy didn’t like, were those long personal prayers which the pastor added to the intercessory prayers! Then on Christmas, the little boy’s parents invited the pastor home for lunch… and would you believe it, his mom asked the minister to pray the prayer of thanksgiving before the meal. “Oh, no,” thought the little boy, “We will never get to eat. I am starving and he will pray forever.” But to his surprise, the pastor’s prayer was brief and to the point. He said, “Oh Lord, bless this home. Bless this food, and use us in your service, in Jesus name. Amen.” The little boy was so astonished by the pastor’s short prayer that he couldn’t help himself. He looked at the pastor and blurted out what he was thinking: “Man, you don’t mess around when you’re hungry!” Well, I don’t want to “mess around” on this Sunday morning before Christmas because I know that whether we realize it or not… we are hungry. We are all hungry for God. We are all hungry for our Savior. We are all hungry for Christmas… because, you see, this is precisely what Christmas is all about. We need a Savior, we are starved for a Savior, and a Savior is given in Jesus, and the name “Jesus” means literally “The Lord is Salvation,” or “Yahweh Saves,” or “Savior.” Jesus came at Christmas to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. He came to save us from our sins.

8) Camel on the roof of royal palace: The king of Balkh (northern Afghanistan) named Ebrahim ibn Adam was wealthy according to every earthly measure. At the same time, however, he sincerely and restlessly strove to be wealthy spiritually as well. One night the king was roused from sleep by a fearful stumping on the roof above his bed. Alarmed, he shouted: ‘Who’s there?’ ‘A friend,’ came the reply from the roof. ‘I’ve lost my camel.’ Perturbed by such stupidity, Ebrahim screamed: ‘You fool! Are you looking for a camel on the roof?’ ‘You fool!’ the voice from the roof answered. ‘Are you looking for God in silk clothing, and lying on a golden bed?’ The story goes on, according to Jesuit theologian Walter G. Burghardt, to tell how these simple words filled the king with such terror that he arose from his sleep to become a most remarkable saint. Every Christmas Jesus asks the same question to each one of us: “Where are you looking for Me? In the majestically adorned and illuminated cathedrals or in the stables of the poor and the needy?” Tonight’s Scripture readings tell us where to look for Christ the Savior.

9) “No Room in the Inn” The Taj Mahal is one of the most beautiful and costly tombs ever built, but there is something fascinating about its beginnings. In 1629, when the favorite wife of Indian ruler Shah Jahan died, he ordered that a magnificent tomb be built as a memorial for her. The shah placed his wife’s casket in the middle of a parcel of land, and construction of the temple literally began around it. But several years into the venture, the Shah’s grief gave way to a passion for the project. One late evening while he was surveying the site, he reportedly stumbled over a wooden box in the dark , and he had some workers to remove it and put it in a common storehouse. It was months before he realized that his wife’s casket that had been carelessly kept in a common store along with useless articles. The original purpose for the memorial became lost in the details of construction. [Dr. James Dobson, Coming Home, Timeless Wisdom for Families (Tyndale House: Wheaton, 1998), 122, & “Story of Christless Christmas,” taken from Max Lucado, The Applause of Heaven, pp. 131-132.] This seemingly unrealistic ancient legend is a painfully relevant parable of the way some people celebrate Christmas today.   Sometimes we become so involved in the tasks and details of Christmas that we forget the One we are honoring.  Five little words in the Gospel of Luke say it all: “No Room in the Inn.”

10) “I want somebody who has skin on.” Leonard Griffith, the outstanding pastor in Toronto, tells the story of a mother who was putting her little daughter to bed in the midst of a thunderstorm. She told her daughter that she did not need to be frightened, that her mother and father were close by in the living room and God was taking care of her. The girl replied to her mother, “Mommy, but when it thunders this way, I want somebody who has skin on.” This simple, homely story, in essence, is the essential truth of our text. The invisible spirit of God did clothe Himself in skin, flesh, and blood and came to dwell among us with grace and truth.

11) A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens, is all about Ebenezer Scrooge, the mean banker who hoards all his money, and goes around saying, “Bah! Humbug!” On Christmas Eve, he is visited by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Future. Then he wakes up on Christmas morning, and finds out he’s been given a second chance. He buys the biggest goose for Bob Crachett and Tiny Tim, is reconciled with his family, serves everyone, and loves everyone for the rest of his life. What makes this such a great story is that Scrooge wakes up on Christmas and decides to spend his life consciously loving and serving others, to live every day as if it were Christmas, loving and serving Christ in everyone.

12) “I Wish I could Be a Brother Like That.“: Paul received an automobile from his brother as a Christmas present. On Christmas Eve when Paul came out of his office, a street urchin was walking around the shiny new car, admiring it. “Is this your car, Mister?” he asked.

Paul nodded. “My brother gave it to me for Christmas.” The boy was astounded. “You mean your brother gave it to you, and it didn’t cost you nothing? Boy, I wish…” He hesitated. Of course Paul knew what he was going to wish for. He was going to wish he had a brother like that. But what the lad said jarred Paul all the way down to his heels. “I wish,” the boy went on, “that I could be a brother like that.”

Paul looked at the boy in astonishment, then impulsively he added, “Would you like to take a ride in my automobile?”

“Oh yes, I’d love that.”

After a short ride, the boy turned and with his eyes aglow, said, “Mister, would you mind driving in front of my house?” Paul smiled a little. He thought he knew what the lad wanted. He wanted to show his neighbors that he could ride home in a big automobile. But Paul was wrong again.

“Will you stop where those two steps are?” the boy asked. He ran up the steps. Then in a little while Paul heard him coming back, but he was not coming fast. He was carrying his little crippled brother. He sat him down on the bottom step, then sort of squeezed up against him and pointed to the car. “There she is, Buddy, just like I told you upstairs. His brother gave it to him for Christmas and it didn’t cost him a cent. And someday I’m gonna give you one just like it…then you can see for yourself all the pretty things in the Christmas windows that I’ve been trying to tell you about.”

Paul got out and lifted the lad to the front seat of his car. The shining-eyed older brother climbed in beside him and the three of them began a memorable holiday ride. That Christmas Eve, Paul learned what Jesus meant when he had said: “It is more blessed to give…” [Dan Clark. From Chicken Soup for the Soul (1992), pp. 25-26.]

13) Erik’s Jesus in rags: A Christmas story: [Erik’s Old Man by Nancy Dahlberg. From Chicken Soup for the Christian Soul (1997), pp. 307-309.]

It was Sunday, Christmas Day. After the holidays in San Francisco we were driving back home to Los Angeles.  We stopped for lunch in King City.  The restaurant was nearly empty.  We were the only family and ours were the only children. I heard Erik, my one-year-old, squeal with glee.  “Hithere,” the two words he always thought were one.  “Hithere,” and he pounded his fat baby hands- whack, whack, whack – on the metal high chair.  His face was alive with excitement, his eyes were wide, gums bared in a toothless grin.  He wriggled and giggled. Then I saw the source of his merriment: an old, dirty smelly bum in rags.  He spoke to Erik:  “Hi there, baby. Hi there, big boy, I see ya, Buster.”  My husband and I exchanged a look that was a cross between “What do we do?” and “Poor devil.”

Our meal came, and the banging and the noise continued.  Now the old bum was shouting across the room and Erik continued to laugh and answer, “Hithere.”  Every call was echoed.  Nobody thought it was cute.  The guy was a drunk and a disturbance.  I was embarrassed.  My husband, Dennis, was humiliated. Dennis went to pay the check, imploring me to get Erik and meet him in the parking lot.  “Lord, just let me get out of here before he speaks to me or Erik,” and I bolted for the door.  It soon was obvious that both the Lord and Erik had other plans. As I drew closer to the man on my way out, Erik, with his eyes riveted on his new friend, leaned over my arm, reaching up with his in a baby’s “pick-me-up position.”  In the split-second of balancing my baby, I came eye-to-eye with the old man. Erik was lunging for him, arms spread wide.  The bum implored me:   “Would you let me hold your baby?” There was no need for me to answer since Erik propelled himself from my arms into those of the bum. Suddenly a very old man and a very young baby consummated their love relationship.

Erik laid his tiny head upon the man’s ragged shoulder.  The man’s eyes closed, and I saw tears hover beneath the lashes.  His aged hands, rough and worn from hard labor, gently cradled and stroked my baby.  I stood awestruck. The old man rocked and cradled Erik in his arms for a moment.  Then he opened his eyes, looked into mine, and said in a firm voice:  “You take care of this baby.”  And somehow I managed to say, “I will.” At last the bum handed Erik to me.   As I held my arms open to receive my baby, the old man said,   “God bless you, Ma’am. You’ve given me my Christmas gift.”  I said nothing more than a muttered “thanks.” With Erik in my arms, I ran for the car.  Dennis wondered why I was crying and holding Erik so tightly.  And why I was saying, “My God, forgive me.  Forgive me”

14) Will you take Christ home with you this Christmas?  When a little boy named Davis came to Christmas morning Mass with his parents, he was surprised to find that baby Jesus was not in the Nativity Set. His parents immediately went into the sacristy and asked the pastor who had removed the Baby Jesus. The pastor rushed to the crib only to realize that some miscreants had stolen the Baby from the manger after the Midnight Mass.  Later, during the morning Mass, the pastor informed the congregation of the theft and told them that he couldn’t understand the motive behind such a callous act. Then, he asked them to see that the Baby Jesus was returned. The manger, however, remained empty.

Later that afternoon, depressed and sad, the pastor was walking through the wintry streets when he saw his neighbor, little Tommy. Shabbily dressed against the cold, Tommy was proudly walking with a new, bright red wagon.  The pastor knew how much his parents must have scrimped and saved to buy him the wagon. With a surge of Christmas spirit, the pastor wished Tommy a Merry Christmas and congratulated him on his beautiful Christmas gift. It was then that he noticed that Tommy’s new red wagon wasn’t empty. The Baby Jesus stolen from the Church lay on a pillow in the wagon. The pastor was disappointed. He told Tommy that stealing was wrong and that the entire parish had been hurt by his action. Wiping from his cheeks the flowing penitential tears, Tommy said, “But, Father, I didn’t steal Jesus! It wasn’t like that at all.  I’ve been asking Jesus for a red wagon for Christmas for a long time, and, you see, I promised Him when I got it, He’d be the first one I took out for a ride. I kept my promise and now I am on my way to the Church to bring Baby Jesus home!”  Each Christmas invites us to take Jesus to our home, because the only inn where He cares to find shelter is the inn of our hearts.   If, like the pastor in our story, we have misjudged others, we can take Jesus home with us by asking their forgiveness. If   someone has hurt us, we can forgive him or her. Let’s make this a Christmas of reconciliation, love, peace and joy.

15) O. Henry’s story of sacrificial Christmas sharing: “Gift of the Magi”:  A brief retelling of this old, but touching story is as follows:   It was Christmas Eve, during the days of the Depression of the 1930’s. Della and James, a newly married couple, were very poor. They loved each other dearly, but money was hard to come by.  In fact, as Christmas approached, they were unhappy because they had no money to buy presents for each other. They had two possessions that they valued deeply:  James had a gold watch which had belonged to his father, and Della had long and beautiful brown hair

As she stood before the mirror, her eyes fell on her long tresses. She was very proud of her beautiful hair, but she knew what she had to do. She faltered a moment, but nothing could stand in the way of love. She hastened to the “hair-dealers,” sold her hair for twenty dollars, and went round shop after shop, hunting for the ideal gift. . Della knew that James’ watch had no matching chain–only a worn-out leather strap. A matching chain would be an ideal gift for her husband. At last she found it and spent the money she had gotten for her hair for her husband’s watch. She was very happy and proud of the gift. She knew he would love it, the fruit of her sacrifice.

James came in, beaming with love, proud of the gift he had bought for Della. He knew she would be very happy with the gift.  But when he saw her, his face fell. She thought he was angry at what she had done. She tried to console him by saying that her hair would grow fast, and soon it would be as beautiful as before.

That is when he gave her his gift. It was an expensive set of combs, with gem-studded rims.   She had always wanted them for her hair! She was very happy, but with a tinge of sadness. She knew it would be some time before she could use the precious gift.

Then, with tears in her eyes, she presented him with the gift she had bought. As he looked at the beautiful chain, he said with a sigh: “I guess our gifts will have to wait for some time. The combs were very expensive; I had to sell my watch to buy the combs!” These were the perfect gifts:  gifts of sacrificial love. Both James and Della were very happy for, like the Magi, they had discovered LOVE through self-sacrifice.

16) Two babies in the manger? In 1994, two Christian missionaries answered an invitation from the Russian Department of Education to teach morals and ethics in a large orphanage. About 100 boys and girls who had been abandoned, abused, and left in the care of a government-run program were in the orphanage. It was nearing Christmas and the missionaries decided to tell them the story of Christmas. It would be the first time these children heard the story of the birth of Christ. They told the children about Mary and Joseph arriving in Bethlehem. Finding no room in the inn, the couple went to a stable, where the Baby Jesus was born and placed in a manger. Throughout the story, the children and the orphanage staff sat in amazement as they listened. When the story was finished, the missionaries gave the children three small pieces of cardboard to make a crude manger. Each child was given a small paper square, cut from yellow napkins that the missionaries had brought with them since no colored paper was available. Following instructions, the children tore the paper and carefully laid strips in the manger for straw. Small squares of flannel, cut from a worn-out
nightgown discarded by a tourist, were used for the baby’s blanket. A doll-like baby was cut from tan felt which the missionaries had also brought with them. It was all going smoothly until one of the missionaries sat down at a table to help a 6 year old boy named Misha. He had finished his manger. When the missionary looked at the little boy’s manger, she was startled to see not one, but two babies in the manger. Quickly, she called for the translator to ask Misha why there were two babies in the manger. Crossing his arms in front of him and looking at this completed manger scene, Misha began to repeat the story very seriously. For such a young boy, who had only heard the Christmas story once, he related the
happenings accurately until he came to the part where Mary put the Baby
Jesus in the manger.

Then Misha started to ad-lib. He made up his own ending. He said, “And when Maria laid the baby in the manger, Jesus looked at me and asked me if I had a place to stay. I told him I have no mamma and I have no papa, so I don’t have any place to stay. Then Jesus told me that I could stay with Him. But I told him I couldn’t, because I didn’t have a gift to give Him like the shepherds and the magi did. But I wanted to stay with Jesus so much, so I thought about what I had that maybe I could use for a gift. I thought maybe if I kept Him warm, that would be a good gift. So I asked Jesus, “If I keep You warm, will that be a good enough gift?” And Jesus told me, “If you keep Me warm, that will be the best gift anybody ever gave Me.” “So I got into the manger and then Jesus looked at me and He told me I could stay with Him – for always.”As little Misha finished his story, his eyes brimmed full of tears that splashed down his little cheeks. Putting his hand over his face, he dropped his head to the table and his shoulders shook as he sobbed and sobbed. The little orphan had found Someone Who would never abandon nor abuse him, someone who would stay with him – FOR ALWAYS. Today we celebrate the great feast of Jesus the Emmanuel – “God With Us. “

17) A Christmas Parable written by Louis Cassels: “Once upon a time there was a man who looked upon Christmas as a lot of humbug. He wasn’t a Scrooge. He was a kind and decent person, generous to his family, upright in all his dealings with other men. But he didn’t believe all that stuff about Incarnation which Churches proclaim at Christmas. And he was too honest to pretend that he did. “I am truly sorry to distress you,” he told his wife, who was a faithful churchgoer. “But I simply cannot understand this claim that God becomes man. It doesn’t make any sense to me.” On Christmas Eve his wife and children went to Church for the midnight service. He declined to accompany them. “I’d feel like a hypocrite,” he explained. “I’d rather stay at home. But I’ll wait up for you.”

Shortly after his family drove away in the car, snow began to fall. He went to the window and watched the flurries getting heavier and heavier. “If we must have Christmas,” he thought, “it’s nice to have a white one.” He went back to his chair by the fireside and began to read his newspaper. A few minutes later he was startled by a thudding sound. It was quickly followed by another, then another. He thought that someone must be throwing snowballs at his living room window. When he went to the front door to investigate, he found a flock of birds huddled miserably in the storm. They had been caught in the storm and in a desperate search for shelter had tried to fly through his window. “I can’t let these poor creatures lie there and freeze,” he thought. “But how can I help them?” Then he remembered the barn where the children’s pony was stabled. It would provide a warm shelter.

He put on his coat and galoshes and tramped through the deepening snow to the barn. He opened the door wide and turned on a light. But the birds didn’t come in. “Food will lure them in,” he thought. So he hurried back to the house for bread crumbs, which he sprinkled on the snow to make a trail into the barn. To his dismay, the birds ignored the bread crumbs and continued to flop around helplessly in the snow. He tried shooing them into the barn by walking around and waving his arms. They scattered in every direction – except into the warm lighted barn. “They find me a strange and terrifying creature,” he said to himself, “and I can’t seem to think of any way to let them know they can trust me. If only I could be a bird myself for a few minutes, perhaps I could lead them to safety. . . .” Just at that moment the Church bells began to ring. He stood silent for a while, listening to the bells pealing the glad tidings of Christmas. Then he sank to his knees in the snow. “Now I do understand,” he whispered. “Now I see why You had to do it.” (Quoted by Fr. Tommy Lane)

18) Did you see the queen? Remember that nursery rhyme?

“Pussy cat, pussy cat, where have you been?”

“I’ve been to London to look at the Queen.”

“Pussy cat, pussy cat, what did you there?”

“I frightened a little mouse, under her chair.”

The pussy cat went to see the Queen, but it saw only a mouse. We have come to Christmas to see Jesus coming to our lives as our Lord and personal Savior. But do we see only the lights, the statues in the manger scene and the poinsettias around the altar? We have come to experience the Light of the world shine on us. But do we see only the darkness of our lives and that of the world? God has communicated His love for us and His desire to be with us through the Babe in the manger. Do we get the Message?

19) Christmas Reconciliation. A young woman drove a rented car slowly up a snow-covered mountain road on a cold Christmas Eve. She was going to see her father, whom she had not seen in twelve years. She had been sixteen when her father and mother divorced after his affair with a woman at work. Neither she nor her mother had ever been able to forgive him. The affair had not lasted and her father had soon given up his corporate job in an eastern city and moved to Colorado — “to rest his weary soul in the solitude of the mountains” was what he had written in the first letter he sent after he left home. He had taken a job with the national park service for the summer and hoped he might find something at a ski resort in the winter. That was all she knew about his life for all of those years. Letters had come regularly from the same address in a town called Ward, and she had carefully saved each one, unopened, in a cookie tin on the back shelf of the large walk-in closet in the bedroom of her townhouse. She had done well for herself, ironically, in the same company that had once employed her father.

The last line of that one letter she had read flashed into her mind, as it had so many times before, as she saw the road sign for Ward with an arrow pointing to the right. “I hope you will be able to forgive me some day, Gracie. I love you.”

Could she forgive him? Was that why she had come? Even after the long flight and the equally long drive from the airport on unfamiliar mountain roads, she still didn’t know.

Grace and her mother had always spent Christmases together, vacationing in Florida or the Caribbean. It was a way of distracting themselves from what they had lost. Now that her mother was remarried there was no place to go. They had invited her for Christmas, her mother and Ted, but she hadn’t wanted to intrude on their first holiday together. So, here she was on the road to Ward.

Grace could see the lights of the little town shimmering below her, shiny and yellow against the snow, like the gold that had once been mined from the mountain. She turned off the main highway and shifted into low gear. The road down to the village was steep and narrow and snow-covered. Sand had been spread on the curves, but she still had to go slowly. She wondered in which of the thirty or forty houses and old miner’s shacks she would find her father. She pulled up in front of the general store. The porch light was on and the door was open. A young woman about her own age, dressed in bib overalls with braided hair hanging down to her waist, was crocheting behind the counter near a small wood-burning stove. Candy bars, cigarettes, and several brands of cough medicine lined the shelves behind her. The woman smiled at Grace and said, “Good evening. What can I do for you?”

“I’m looking for my father,” Grace said. The plaintive tone of her own voice surprised her. She told the woman her father’s name and immediately saw a knowing look of recognition. “Old Jim. He comes in here all the time. You must be Grace. He told me about you.”

It seemed strange to hear her father called old. Grace remembered him as middle-aged. Of course he would be older now, in his late sixties. It pleased Grace to know he had spoken of her.

“Almost everybody is up at the Church,” the woman said. “I saw your dad go up about a half-hour ago. A retired preacher comes up from Nederbet every Christmas Eve. It’s about the only time they have services here. You can leave your car out in front. It’s easier to walk from here.”

Grace slowly made her way over the footbridge spanning the ice-covered stream that wound through the center of the town. She could see the small clapboard church about 200 yards up the mountain. On top of the steeple there were green, blue, and red Christmas lights flashing in the form of a star. They appeared to be attached to the cross. Her hands trembled as she opened the door of the church. Would her father be glad to see her after all these years? Would he recognize her?

She spotted him, sitting by himself in one of the back pews. “Old Jim.” The woman at the store was right. His hair was thin and completely gray. He was much heavier now. He looked tired, and, the thought pained her, very much alone.

The congregation stood up to sing “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing.” The words of the familiar carol rang in her ears as she slipped into the pew beside her father. “Glory to the newborn King, Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled.”

She squeezed her father’s hand and a smile came over his face in the same instant he turned to see her. “Grace,” he said, “I’m so glad to see you.”

“Daddy,” was all she was able to say.

When the pastor gave the invitation to come forward for receiving Jesus in the Christmas Holy Communion, Grace and her father walked up the aisle hand in hand.

20) God has revealed Himself in his Son.” Theologian Karl Barth stood before students and faculty at Princeton in 1963 during his Princeton Lectures. A student asked: “Sir, don’t you think that God has revealed himself in other religions and not only Christianity?” Barth stunned many who were present when he thundered, “No, God has not revealed himself in any religion, including Christianity. He has revealed himself in his Son.”

21) Shuttle service to Heaven: The brilliant writer, C. S. Lewis, wrote a thought-provoking book called The Great Divorce. It is not about the divorce that occurs between husband and wife. It is about the divorce that occurs between our souls and God. In this book, C. S. Lewis gives us a picture of Hell as a big city, with all its pressures and problems. In this big city, the weather is always cold and wet with a heavy rain. The light is always grey and murky. The people in this city of Hell become more and more aware of the great divorce that has taken place between their soul and God, and they sink deeper and deeper into their dismal surroundings. Except … there is a way out! There is a way out of this terrible condition! God has provided a shuttle-bus service from Hell to Heaven: regular bus service. All you need to do is get on the bus and let the power of God carry you into the light. The incredible thing about the story is that very few people get on board the buses, even though they are arriving and departing all the time. The people find all kinds of excuses for putting the journey off to some vague future time — and they miss the opportunity to be carried by the power of God from death to new life; from the misery of being estranged from God to the joy of being in union with God. Though we may stand in the darkness of the “great divorce,” the Christmas Promise of God is that He will carry us into the light if only we are willing to get on the bus.

22) “But I did show up”: A story is told of an old woman who lived all alone. Each year as Christmas drew near she would sigh and lament her loneliness, wishing that some people would visit her. Since nobody would visit her, she decided to pray to the Baby Jesus and his mother requesting that they pay her a visit. Finally the Baby Jesus appeared to her in a dream and told her that her prayer had been heard and that the Holy Family would visit her on Christmas day. Oh, how excited she was! She began cleaning and polishing everything in her house squeaky clean in preparation for the divine visitor. She cooked her best dish and baked her best cake in readiness for the visit of Jesus and his mother. Who knows, maybe if she pleased them well enough, they might decide to stay on and live with her!

When Christmas day finally arrived her house was squeaky clean. Everything was in place to give her divine guests a befitting welcome. She sat by the door and read a book, just to make sure the visitors would not have to ring the door bell twice before she would open the door and let them in. It was a cold and rainy day. At about noon she spotted a gypsy couple in the rain making their way to her house. The man was dirty and disheveled. The thinly-clad woman was nursing a baby who was crying in the rain. “Why can’t these gypsies just get a decent job,” she said to herself. Then she screamed at them, “Turn back, turn back immediately. Come another day if you like. Today, I am expecting very important visitors.” The gypsy family turned back and left. The woman continued to wait. She waited all day and no Heavenly visitors showed up. At sunset she fell asleep on the chair and there in her dream was Jesus. “Jesus,” she screamed, “how could you disappoint me? You said you were coming to visit me for Christmas and I waited all day and you never showed up.” “But I did show up,” replied Jesus. I came with My father and mother in the rain and you turned us away.”

23) “Your God Is Too Small.” JB Phillips authored a book entitled Your God Is Too Small. One of the great reasons for Advent is to celebrate the birth of Jesus and explore the BIGNESS of our GREAT God. The irony of Christmas is this: the bigness of God can be seen in a tiny Baby. According to Paul in Colossians 1:15-23 this tiny Baby is the dynamic, omniscient, omnipotent Creator of the universe!

24) Ancient Christmas reading from the Roman Martyrology: Pope Gregory XIII in 1584 brought together the Roman Martyrology. “The customary reading for Christmas from the Roman Martyrology, often proclaimed prior to the celebration of Christmas Mass at Midnight: In the year 5199 since the creation of the world, when God made heaven and earth; in the year 2759 since the flood; in the year 2015 since Abraham’s birth; in the year 1510 since the exodus of the people of Israel from Egypt under the guidance of Moses; in the year 1032 since David was anointed king; in the 65th week of years according to Daniel’s prophecy; in the 194th Olympiad; in the year 732 after the building of Rome; in the 42nd year of the reign of Octavian Augustus, when there was peace in the whole world; in the 6th era of the world’s history; Jesus Christ, eternal God and Son of the eternal Father, desired to sanctify the world by His gracious coming. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, and now after nine months (all kneel) He is born at Bethlehem in the tribe of Judah as Man from the Virgin Mary. THE BIRTH OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST IN THE FLESH. (Fr. Cusick)

25) A Savior born to us: The Russians have for centuries told a legend about a young medieval prince, Alexis, who lived in a sumptuous palace, while all around, in filthy hovels, lived hundreds of poor peasants. The Prince was moved with compassion and determined to better their lot. So he began to visit them. But as he moved in and out among them he found that they treated him with enormous respect; but he was never able to win their confidences, and he returned to the palace a disappointed man. Then one day a very different man came among the people, a rough and ready young doctor who wanted to devote his life to serving the poor. He started by renting a filthy rat-ridden shack in one of the back streets. His clothes were old and tattered and he lived simply, often without knowing where the next meal was coming from. He made no money from his profession because he treated most people free and gave away his medicines. Before long this young doctor had won the respect and affection of all those people, as Prince Alexis had never succeeded in doing. And little by little he transformed the whole spirit of the place, settling quarrels, and helping people to live decent lives. No one ever guessed that this young doctor was in fact the Prince himself, who had abandoned his palace and become one of them. -That’s just what God did on that first Christmas day. He came down to help us to become the sort of beings he intended us to be. (John Williams in More Quotes and Anecdotes).

26) Pope Benedict XVI’s three Christmas wishes: “My first wish, is that our gaze, that of our minds and our hearts, not rest only on the horizon of this world, on its material things, but that in some way, like this tree that tends upward, it be directed toward God. God never forgets us but He also asks that we don’t forget Him.”

“My second wish is that we recall that we also need a light to illumine the path of our lives and to give us hope, especially in this time in which we feel so greatly the weight of difficulties, of problems, of suffering, and it seems that we are enshrouded in a veil of darkness. But what light can truly illuminate our hearts and give us a firm and sure hope? It is the Child whom we contemplate on Christmas in a poor and humble manger, because He is the Lord who draws near to each of us and asks that we receive Him anew in our lives, asks us to want Him, to trust in Him, to feel His presence, that He is accompanying us, sustaining us, and helping us.”

The Pontiff presented his third wish with this reflection: “This great tree is formed of many lights. My final wish is that each of us contribute something of that light to the spheres in which we live: our families, our jobs, our neighborhoods, towns, and cities.”

27) The “Fear Nots” of Christmas
In the Christmas narratives, there are several “fear not’s.”
1) The “fear not” of salvation: “And the angel said unto them, “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings…which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10,11).
2) The “fear not” of the humanly impossible: Fear not, Mary:… the Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee:…For with God nothing shall be impossible” (Luke 1:30, 35, 37).
3) The “fear not” of unanswered prayer: “Fear not, Zechariah, for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elizabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John” (Luke 1:13).
4) The “fear not” of immediate obedience: “’Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife ‘:.. Then Joseph … did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him”  (Matthew 1:20,24).

28) In Alan Paton’s beautiful novel, Cry the Beloved Country, there is a young man who was born late in his parents’ lives. He leaves his home in the hill country and goes down to the city. He never writes or sends back news. Finally, his elderly father decides to go to the city to find his boy. Because he hasn’t spent much time in the city, he has a hard time of it there. He is bewildered and confused and he doesn’t know where to begin. Then he is befriended by a city minister who hears his story and resolves to help him. The old man moves in with the minister who goes out of his way, spending time trying to help the father pick up clues, to get on the trail of his son. And when they seem to be making progress, the old man, with tears in his eyes, is trying to thank the minister for all he has done. He can’t quite find the words and says simply, “You’re a good man.” The minister replies, “I’m not a good man. I am a sinful and a selfish man. But Jesus Christ has laid His hands on me, that’s all.” A good man is hard to find. But God sent one — one good Man — to show us the answer to the supreme riddle of life. One good Man who will never fail us. For, as St. Paul has written, “Love never fails” (I Cor. 13:8). (Voicings.com)

29) The House of the Dead – Christmas dawn in a Siberian camp: It was a dingy little settlement among frozen wastelands. From the grim prison at one end of a single muddy street the convicts peered through barred windows at the small cathedral on a hill at the other side of town. The bells rang merrily as that Christmas dawn arrived and the villagers trooped in happy procession to the early church service. It was Christ’s mass, Christmas. “But not for us, who are cut off from all humanity,” the ragged prisoners wept, huddled together for comfort from the cold. Finally, however, when the long cathedral service was ended, a priest came to the prison, set up a crude altar, and began the service of worship. “Now God has come to us!” the convicts shouted in surprised joy. “Oh yes,” replied the priest. “This is where he lives all year long. You see, he goes to the cathedral only on special occasions.”
(Dostoyevsky in ‘The House of the Dead’; quoted by Fr. Botelho).

30) Origin of the Christmas celebration: Many scholars believe that Christmas came to be placed on December 25th in order to counteract a pagan celebration called the Birth of the Unconquered Sun, a feast established by the Roman Emperor, Aurelian, in AD 274. Since December 25th was around the date of the winter solstice (the year’s shortest day, after which the days begin to lengthen again, showing the victory of the sun over darkness), it was chosen as the date of rejoicing. When Christianity was approved as the official religion of the Roman Empire, the Church chose this day to celebrate the birth of the true Sun – the Son of God Who conquers the power of darkness. Another theory gives Biblical support for celebrating Christmas on the 25th of December. It claims that the annunciation of the birth of John the Baptist to Zachariah occurred during the feast of Yom Kippur, around September 25th, placing the birth of John after nine months on June 25th. Since the angel tells Mary that Elizabeth is in the sixth month of her pregnancy, the Annunciation event and the conception of Jesus took place around March 25th leading to Jesus’ birth after nine months, around December 25th.

Transporter231) Visiting Jesus in the manger in Star Trek Transporter, the time travel machine: In my opinion, one of the most interesting episodes of the original Star Trek series was the one in which Captain Kirk and his crew landed on a planet where they discovered a large sculpture of sorts standing in the middle of the ruins of an ancient city. It was shaped like a huge lop-sided donut and, at first glance it appeared to be made of some kind of stone. But, further investigation led Mr. Spock to see that it was actually a very sophisticated machine-one that was still operational and was designed to function as a window of sorts through which they could look back in time and actually watch history unfold. Using the machine Kirk and his crew were able to see the American Revolution take place before their very eyes. Then, they looked on as Napoleon’s armies conquered Europe and then the machine sped forward a bit and they became firsthand witnesses to the brutality of World War I.Of course this was science fiction, but, if there was such a device-one that would enable you to look back into time, what portion of history would you want to tune in? Baby jesus in the manger may be your first preference. (Rev. Mark Adams).

32) Knocking at the door: A Catholic priest had the custom of visiting his parishioners on Saturday afternoon. He came to one home and knocked on the door. No one answered, but he could hear the radio playing and even some footsteps so he knew someone had to be inside. He knocked louder. No one came. Finally, he pounded on the door, but got no response. So, he took out a business card, wrote a Bible verse on it and stuck it in the door. Ten minutes later a lady – who had been in the house all the time – opened the door. When she did, the card fell out. She saw the priest’s name and the Bible verse: Revelation 3:20. Curious, she got out her Bible and read the verse. It said: “Behold, I am standing at the door, knocking…if anyone opens the door, I will come in and we will have a meal together.” Well, on Sunday morning the priest noticed his business card was in the collection basket. When he picked it up, he saw that his verse was crossed out and replaced by Genesis 3:10. The priest was curious, so he went to the sacristy and got out his Bible. The verse said, “Behold, I saw you walking in the garden…but I was afraid and I hid myself.” But it does tie in with the main point of this Christmas homily. Someone is knocking at the door – everything depends on whether you open that door. It would not make an enormous difference whether a person opens the door to their parish priest, but someone much more important is knocking at your door – and mine. It is Jesus himself. (Old story retold by Mathew Kelley).

33) The Language of God: There is a legend of an African boy called Emmanuel, who was always asking questions. One day he asked the question, “What language does God speak?” No one could answer him. He traveled all over his country to find the answer but did not get a satisfactory answer. Eventually he set out for distant lands to find the answer. For a long time, he had no success. At last he came one night to a village called Bethlehem and as there was no room in the local inn, he went outside the village in search of a shelter for the night. He came to a cave and found that too was occupied by a couple and a child. He was about to turn away when the young mother spoke, ‘Welcome Emmanuel, we’ve been waiting for you.” The boy was amazed that the woman knew his name. He was even more amazed when she went on to say, “For a long time you have been searching the world over to find out what language God speaks. Well, now your journey is over. Tonight, you can see with your own eyes what language God speaks. He speaks the language of love, that is expressed in sharing, understanding, mercy and total acceptance.” (Source unknown).

34) Enemy soldiers in the same house celebrating Christmas: As a battle raged in Europe in World War II, a group of young American soldiers got separated from their company. They were trying to find their way in the forest when, toward evening, they came upon a small house with wisps of smoke coming out of its chimney. As they edged their way to the house, they saw a woman approaching. She told them that since they were hungry and lost, they were welcome to take food and rest in the house on the condition that they respect her visitors. It was close to Christmas and she would like to have peace reign in her house. When they entered, they saw some young German soldiers at table, eyeing them nervously. But the “commander” of the house was the kind-hearted lady who had earlier told the German soldiers to respect her visitors. The Germans too got separated from their group. That night, they felt like young boys again, nostalgic of their homes. They sang Christmas carols. They saw each other not as mortal enemies but as fellow human beings longing for peace and the comfort of home. The next day they went their separate ways after sharing information on how to rejoin their respective companies. Christmas is a time for peace. Combatants declare ceasefire, so soldiers can rejoin their families or celebrate the feast together. Hardened fighters feel more human and more as men of goodwill. (Fr. Benitez).

35) Pax Augusta and the real king of peace: Jesus was born during the reign of Caesar Augustus. After defeating Anthony and Cleopatra at Actium, Augustus became the undisputed ruler of the Roman Empire. He was finally able to close the door of the shrine of Janus as a sign that the times of war had ended and great altar for peace was erected to propagandized Pax Augusta, the peace brought about by him. He was also called the “savior of the world.” But the peace he imposed was through domination and conquest, enforced by fear and by public crucifixions of those who would threaten Roman domination. In contrast, the bringer of true peace would arrive at the little town of Bethlehem. His rule would be marked by love and forgiveness, compassion and freedom. His first appearance to the world was on a feeding through for animals. The first recipients of the news of His arrival, next to His parents, were shepherds whose work was socially considered as lowly and unclean and economically difficult in a place where there was little grazing land. Yet this child would be Savior, Messiah and Lord. (Fr. Benitez).

  Our greatest need at Christmas
If our greatest need had been information, God would have sent us an educator; If our greatest need had been technology, God would have sent us a scientist; If our greatest need had been money, God would have sent us an economist; If our greatest need had been pleasure, God would have sent us an entertainer; But our greatest need was forgiveness, so God sent us a Savior. -Source Unknown.

Some Christmas Reminders
* May the Christmas GIFTS remind us of God’s greatest gift, His only Son.
* May the Christmas CANDLES remind us of Him who is the “Light of the world.”
* May the Christmas TREES remind us of another tree upon which he died.
* May the Christmas CHEER remind us of Him who said, “Be of good cheer.”
* May the Christmas FEAST remind us of Him who is “the Bread of Life.”
* May the Christmas BELLS remind us of the glorious proclamation of His birth.
* May the Christmas CAROLS remind us of the son the angels sang, “Glory to God in the Highest!”
* May the Christmas SEASON remind us in every way of Jesus Christ our King!

Christmas Begins

When the song of the angels is stilled
when the star in the sky is gone
when the kings and the princes are home
when the shepherds are back with their flocks
the work of Christmas begins:
to find the lost
to heal the broken
to feed the hungry
to release the prisoner
to rebuild the nations
to bring peace among the people
to make music in the heart.
(Howard Thurman)

The Ten Commandments for Christmas

The following item appeared in a Church newsletter and contains some
good advice that will help us keep selfishness in check this Christmas:

I. Thou shalt not leave “Christ” out of Christmas,
making it “Xmas.” To some, “X” is unknown.

II. Thou shalt prepare thy soul for Christmas. Spend
not so much on gifts that thy soul is forgotten.

III. Thou shalt not let Santa Claus replace Christ, thus
robbing the day of its spiritual reality.

IV. Thou shalt not burden the shop girl, the mailman, and
the merchant with complaints and demands.

V. Thou shalt give thyself with thy gift. This will
increase its value a hundred fold, and he who receiveth it shall
treasure it forever.

VI. Thou shalt not value gifts received by their cost.
Even the least expensive may signify love, and that is more priceless
than silver and gold.

VII. Thou shalt not neglect the needy. Share thy blessings
with many who will go hungry and cold unless thou art generous.

VIII. Thou shalt not neglect thy church. Its services highlight
the true meaning of the season.

IX. Thou shalt be as a little child. Not until thou hast
become in spirit as a little one art thou ready to enter into the
Kingdom of Heaven.

X. Thou shalt give thy heart to Christ. Let Him be at
the top of thy Christmas list.

Merry Christmas Mary, thank you for the Child.
Thank you for Lord Jesus, thank you for the Child.
Christmas time is here again, peace on Earth good will to men.
The air is filled with joyful sounds, merry wishing all around,
Giving and receiving gifts, stopping by to thank all of our friends.
And we thank you, Mary, for helping give God’s greatest gift to man.
Merry Christmas Mary, thank you for the Child.
Thank you for Lord Jesus, thank you for the Child.
Merry Christmas Mary, too often we forget
To thank you for your part, in giving the greatest Christmas present yet.
Merry Christmas Mary. (Singer Johnny Cash)

St. Patrick’s Emmanuel prayer: About to embark on a dangerous journey, St. Patrick refused the heavy armor offered him by friends and nobility. Instead, he presented his own protection, a song that has come to be known as “St. Patrick’s Breastplate.” For all who have found the Messiah like the magi, it is a symbol of our best protection:

Christ be beside me;
Christ be before me;
Christ be behind me;
King of my heart.
Christ be within me;
Christ be below me;
Christ be above me;
Never to part.
Christ on my right hand;
Christ on my left hand;
Christ all around me,
Shield in the strife.
Christ in my sleeping;
Christ in my sitting;
Christ in my rising,
Light of my life.

CHRISTMAS REFLECTIONS ON I CORINTHIANS CHAPTER 13

If I decorate my house perfectly with plaid bows, strands of twinkling
lights and shiny balls, but do not show love to my family, I’m just another
decorator.

If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas cookies,
preparing gourmet meals and arranging a beautifully adorned table at
mealtime, but do not show love to my family, I’m just another cook.

If I work at the soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home, and give all that
I have to charity, but do not show love to my family, it profits me nothing.

If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels and crocheted snowflakes, attend
a myriad of holiday parties and sing in the choir’s cantata, but do not
focus on Christ, I have missed the point.

Love stops the cooking to hug the child.
Love sets aside decorating to kiss the husband.
Love is kind, though harried and tired.
Love doesn’t envy another’s home that has coordinated Christmas china and
table linens.
Love doesn’t yell at the kids to get out of the way, but is thankful they
are there to be in the way.
Love doesn’t give only to those who are able to give in return but rejoices
in giving to those who can’t.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all
things.
Love never fails.
Video games will break, pearl necklaces will be lost, golf clubs will rust.
But giving the gift of love will endure.
Merry Christmas! (Sent by Fr.Terry Nihill – tgollob@juno.com)

“And the Word became flesh” (Jn. 1:14)

Old Testament blessing for Christmas (Numbers 6:24-26)

May the Lord bless you and keep you.

May the Lord let his face shine on you,

and be gracious to you.

May the Lord look kindly on you

and give you His peace.

Wishing you and yours every grace and blessing

for Christmas and the New Year

and remembering you in my Masses and prayers.Fr. Tony

Cycle C No. 6-c (2018) akadavil@gmail.com

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