“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom, a light has shown. You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing.” Isaiah 9:1-2
Each year we hear these Scripture verses proclaimed as we complete our Advent preparations and celebrate the profound mysteries of God’s presence among us. Each year we emerge from the darkness of sin, reconciled to our God and each other, and celebrate the Light shattering our darkness.
Christ, our Light, has come! Even the world of nature has responded to the Lord’s coming as the days since the winter solstice last Wednesday are now getting longer. We live in the Light of Christ.
I had originally thought that the controversy between the seasonal greetings “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Holidays” would fade in time. But again this year we find people rallying under one banner or another. Many who favor the “Happy Holidays” greeting claim that their attempts are be more inclusive of all the different cultures in which we live. Maybe they are. But I still suspect that these efforts are more of an attempt to take the religious meaning out of our celebrations. The truth of the matter is that Christmas is a religious feast. It is a celebration of the birth of Christ – period! If Christ had not become flesh, there would be no Christmas. This feast is a celebration of our faith. So let us wish each other “Merry Christmas” and do it proudly and without any hesitation. We are celebrating the birth of Emmanuel, “God with us.”
One of the more popular Christmas carols heard over the airways these past few weeks has been “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” Even though Costco and a number of local retailers have 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, this year the Monday 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 Monday we celebrate the feast of St. Stephen, one of the original deacons and the first martyr. Tuesday gives us the feast of St. John the Apostle and Evangelist, and Wednesday is the feast of the Holy Innocents, the martyred infants of Bethlehem. Since both Christmas and the feast of Mary, the Mother of God fall on Sundays this year, we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph on Friday. This feast normally falls on the Sunday between Christmas and the feast of Mary the Mother of God.
Friday’s feast of the Holy Family is a relatively new feast on our calendar. Following World War I, the chaos of daily life in Europe made its impact felt on the family structure. The feast of the Holy Family was introduced in 1921 to offer Christians an image of hope and holiness in family life, and to promote the welfare of children. In 1969 the feast was fixed to the Sunday between Christmas and the feast of Mary, the Mother of God – or in years like this on Friday, December 30th). It is a great way for us to continue our celebration of the wonderful feast of Christmas.
Please note that our weekday Masses during Christmas week will be celebrated at 7:00am. Next Sunday as we celebrate the feast of Mary, the Mother of God, our schedule of Masses will be the same as our regular Sunday schedule, beginning with the anticipation Masses on Saturday evening. Also please note that our Parish Offices will be closed on Monday, December 26th and on Friday, December 30th. We will be open this week on Tuesday through Thursday, 8:30am to 6:00pm.
Thank you to all who sent Christmas greetings and gifts to us at the Rectory. We deeply appreciate your good wishes and your generosity. We are blessed in being able to serve you at our parish.
It is hard to believe that another year will soon pass into history. Whatever ups or downs the past year may have held for each of us, God continued to dwell among us through it all, and continued to bless us and love us. As the calendar turns over Saturday night to the year 2017, let’s begin another new year in God’s faithful history of salvation. Know that you and the concerns of your hearts are remembered in our prayers during this holy season. May our ever faithful and present God continue to bless us with everything that we need, and more. And a “Merry Christmas” to one and all!
Father Jim Murphy