Today we celebrate the Fourth and final Sunday of Advent. With Christmas Eve also falling on today, we have the shortest possible Fourth Week of Advent – not even a full day! The Christmas Season begins with our anticipation Masses at 4:00pm today. But before that happens, we need to conclude the Season of Advent.
This past week our daily Scripture readings have been setting the stage for our Christmas celebration. Today the person of Mary steps into our Advent spot light as we hear the familiar account of Gabriel’s Annunciation to her. We see Mary as a young maiden who lived in simplicity, even poverty. In Mary’s village of Nazareth, there were no magnificent buildings. Mary’s clothing would have been homespun. She would have gone with other women to the town’s single well to draw water. In her home, she would have been engaged in cleaning, gardening, cooking and sewing. The angel Gabriel brought the announcement to Mary in this humble setting. Mary’s initial response was fear and confusion. Gabriel seeks to help her to understand and comforts her so that she can respond. This significant Gospel brings our Advent preparations to a fitting conclusion. This afternoon, we begin the great celebration of God’s presence among us.
Please not that we have cancelled our regular 1:00pm Mass for today only in order to allow time for the church to be cleaned and for our Art & Environment team to transform our worship space from Advent to Christmas. We thank you for your understanding.
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 at 4:00pm. 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. This Mass should be an excellent choice for seating and parking.
And now some thoughts on our celebration of Christmas ….
“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 Thursday are now getting longer. We live in the Light of Christ.
As we gather again this afternoon or tomorrow 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.
Please note that our weekday Masses during Christmas week will be celebrated at 7:00am. Next Sunday as we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family, 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 25th, Tuesday, December 26th and on Friday, December 29th. We will be open this week on Wednesday and Thursday, 9 am to 3 pm. It is important that our parish staff have the opportunity to celebrate the holidays with their families.
Many of our college students have 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!
As we gather with family and friends to retell the story of God’s coming among us in the past, let’s allow our retelling of the cherished and familiar story to open our eyes to recognize God’s coming among us today – especially through each other.
“God bless us everyone!”
Father Jim Murphy