Today we celebrate the Fourth and final Sunday of Advent. We are in the second and final phase of our preparations. Earlier, the Advent Scriptures have challenged us to recognize the Lord’s presence already among us. We have responded to John the Baptist’s call to repent and celebrated the Sacrament of Reconciliation as a community last Monday evening. This year, our Fourth Week of Advent lasts only five days. Our daily Scripture readings are helping us to retell the story of how the Lord came among us in the past through his birth as one of us. Thursday evening we begin the great celebration of God’s presence among us.
Our Christmas and New Year liturgical schedule is printed on the front page of this week’s bulletin. It was also included in our Advent 2015 Brochure and is posted on our parish website http://www.stisidoreparish.org/. Please note the dates and times of all of our additional celebrations. We are anticipating capacity congregations at each of our 4:00pm Christmas Eve Masses in the Church, the Ministry Center and the Chapel. These Masses will begin as each space is filled, beginning with the Church. This means that Mass in the Church will begin once the Church is full. This could happen as early as 3:35pm. Then people will be directed to the Ministry Center and Mass there will begin once that space is full (probably around 3:45pm) and then the final Mass in the Chapel. So please do not drop off a family representative to “hold seats” in the Church with the rest of the family arriving later. Once the Church is near capacity, we will fill in any “saved seats” and begin the Mass. Please bring your entire family with you when you arrive so that you will be able to attend the Mass of your choice together. We have found that this staggered beginning of our 4:00pm Masses also allows for a staggered exit from the parking lot. If you would like to avoid the crowds on Christmas Eve, please consider the 8:30am Mass on Christmas Day. It should be an excellent choice for seating and parking.
No doubt, we will have a large number of visitors with us for our Christmas Masses and our parking resources will be pushed to their limits. Please consider some creative alternatives in the Popeye’s/Red Lobster lot to the east, the ToysRUs/Goodwill lot on the south side of Army Trail Road and the Turtle Wax Car Wash and Automotive Shops parking on the west side of Gary Avenue. It is a mark of true hospitality to leave the close-in spaces for the elderly and our visitors. Hopefully the warm weather will continue for the walk in from those remote lots. Thanks for your consideration.
One of the more popular Christmas carols heard over the airways these past few weeks has been “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” Even though a local radio station once proclaimed the twelve days of Christmas as those leading up to December 25th, Christians have always kept Christmas as a season of twelve days from December 25th through January 6th, the traditional date of the Epiphany. The church calendar today even extends the Christmas celebration until the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, normally the Sunday following Epiphany.
In order to continue our celebration, the church has placed a number of notable feast days on the calendar immediately following Christmas. On Saturday we celebrate the feast of St. Stephen, a Deacon and the first martyr. We will celebrate our regular Saturday morning Mass on that day at 8:15am. Next Sunday we will celebrate the feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. We will have our regular schedule of Masses for next Sunday’s celebration, beginning with the anticipation Masses on Saturday evening. And then Friday, January 1st, we celebrate the feast of Mary, the Mother of God – a Holy Day of Obligation. We will celebrate the anticipation Masses on Thursday, New Year’s Eve, at 5:00pm and 6:30pm (Spanish). Masses on New Year’s Day will be celebrated at 8:30am, 10:00am and 11:30am (Spanish).
The celebrations of the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12th were very moving celebrations. The same was true with the Simbang Gabi Filipino celebration last Friday night. Both the Hispanic and Filipino communities bring much to our community. We are blessed to have both of these communities reminding us of the larger church.
Many of our college students have already made their way home for their Christmas break. Congratulations on a successful completion of your Fall semester. We are very happy to have you home with us!
Our parish office will be closed on Thursday, Christmas Eve and Friday, Christmas Day. The parish office will also be closed on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. It is important that our parish staff have the opportunity to celebrate the holidays with their families.
As we gather again Thursday evening or Friday morning for our celebration of the feast of Christmas, I ask that each of us be a generous as possible in remembering your Christmas gift to our parish. Like everyone else, we are facing increases in our fixed expenses. I am very grateful for your faithful support throughout the course of the year and thank you in advance for your continued support at Christmas.
As we complete our observance of Advent and begin our celebration of Christmas on Thursday evening, please know that all of you are especially remembered in our prayers. We ask God’s blessings on those who are traveling and will be away at Christmas. Wherever Christmas may find us, may our celebration this year renew our hope and restore our peace as we recognize God’s closeness. As always, may God continue to bless is with all that we need, and more.
Father Jim Murphy