Merry Christmas! As you read this, we have passed December 25, and that means that the Christmas season has just begun! We will celebrate the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, the Epiphany, and the Baptism of the Lord; this weekend we celebrate the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.
As we come to the close of this year and look to begin a new year, I want to express my sincere gratitude and thankfulness. This has been a challenging year, and nevertheless, you have responded with grace, flexibility, and generosity. While Mass hasn't been “normal,” you have taken well the changes, whether they be in seating, masking, or even singing. With significantly less people at Mass, our collections have dipped, and yet many have stepped up to ensure that we remain on budget. You have found ways to reach out to our homebound, and you have made sure that children and families will have gifts at Christmas. Many remain committed to joining us for Mass, either in person or at home. If you're reading this, you have probably remained committed to our parish. I have to stay thank you for your support and commitment, and know that I will continue to pray for you in 2021 and strive to be the best pastor I can be. Thank you!
Going back to our theme of beginning the Christmas season, I want to briefly share the “spoiler alerts” of Christmas. We think of this holy day as a celebration of the birth of the Son of God in Bethlehem, and indeed it is. At the same time, there are details within the story of the Nativity of Christ that point us to what is to come for the Christ Child.
Pope Benedict XVI shares, “Mary wrapped the child in swaddling cloths...The child stiffly wrapped in bandages is seen as prefiguring the hour of his death: from the outset, he is the sacrificial victim.” He later continues, “The manger is the place where animals find their food. But now, lying in the manger, is he who called himself the true bread come down from heaven, the true nourishment that we need in order to be fully ourselves. This is the food that gives us true life, eternal life.” Lastly, taking into account the animals often depicted in Nativity scenes, Pope Benedict states, “So the manger has in some sense become the Ark of the Covenant, in which God is mysteriously hidden among men, and before which the time has come for 'ox and ass'—humanity made up of Jews and Gentiles—to acknowledge God.”
In other words, Pope Benedict is bringing to light the purpose and foreshadowing found in Bethlehem. The swaddling cloths foreshadow the burial cloths, with the manger speaking of the future cross. Additionally, the manger speaks of Jesus as food given for His people; Bethlehem itself means “house of bread.” Jesus comes for all people, as a sacrificial victim, to save them and set them free from slavery to sin and Satan. As Venerable Fulton Sheen stated, Jesus was born in order to die. We, then, join in Jesus' mission to rescue others from the powers of darkness. There is reason for rejoicing at Christmas: Jesus Christ, the Light is coming into the world to save us.
We are saints under construction, joining in Christ's mission of rescue and seeking to bring others closer to Christ. Have a great week! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!