A word from Pope Francis ~ “To prepare the way for the Lord who comes, it is necessary to take into account the demands of conversion.”
Today we celebrate the Fourth and final Sunday of Advent. With Christmas Eve tomorrow, we have a very short Fourth Week of Advent – just one day plus a few hours! The Christmas Season begins with our anticipation Masses at 4:00pm tomorrow. 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 her visitation with Elizabeth. Upon receiving the news that her elderly cousin, Elizabeth, is six month pregnant, Mary immediately turns her attention to the needs of Elizabeth and goes to care for her during the final months of her pregnancy. Her needs became second to the needs of someone else. From the very beginning, Mary teaches us how to be disciples of her son.
Our Christmas and New Year liturgical schedule is printed on the cover of this week’s bulletin. It was also included in our Advent 2018 Brochure and is posted on our parish website 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 and use the Popeye’s/Red Lobster lot to the east, the 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.
The celebration of Simbang Gabi with our Filipino community last Friday was a very moving celebration. The Filipino community brings much to our larger church community. We are blessed to have the Filipino community remind us that we are a part of a larger church community.
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!
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 Friday are now getting longer. We live in the Light of Christ.
As we gather again tomorrow afternoon or Tuesday 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.
Our parish office will be closed on Monday, Christmas Eve and Tuesday, Christmas Day. It will be open Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 9:00am to 3:00pm. 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 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