”What does it profit me if Jesus is reborn in thousands of cribs all over the world
Verily, the most-awaited and anticipated day is finally here with us. Indeed, Christ is born to us this day. We have seen the glory and the magnificence of God radiating in the cheerful smile of the baby Jesus in the manger. Oh, what a wonderful scene to behold!. Are we not honored to have the Divine pitch His tent amongst us, although as unworthy humans?
As we celebrate and rejoice over the nativity of our Lord, we recall the mystery of God being unfolded in human milieu and ambiance. The great wonder and miracle happening for the divine to be incarnated in human flesh and blood.
History foretold centuries back being fulfilled in our time and setting. God proving the apex of His love for us (John 3:16) in concrete terms. The evidence of the hope for redemption (salvation) from the servitude of sin ultimately shown us in the form of the innocence and the purity of a baby in the stable.
Historically, Christmas was introduced on December 25th by Pope Julius (AD 353) to baptize or Christianised a popular pagan feast celebrated during the winter season (particularly in December after the winter solstice) by the Roman Empire. They celebrated what they called in Latin, ”Deis Natalis Invicti Solis,” (rendered in English as the Birthday of the Unconquered Sun) to honor the god of the Sun during the winter solstice.
In this same period the Roman soldiers celebrated the birthday of the god of virility (called Mitra). So generally, to honor their god of agriculture (named Saturn) the Romans called their winter holidays, Saturnalia.
Hence,when the relationship between the Church and the state (empire) grew stronger there was a conversion from polytheism to monotheism. That is, the Church succeeded in helping the pagans to have faith in the only one God in the birth of Christ. Eventually, in the sixth century the Emperor (Julianus) at the time declared Christmas as a national holiday to be observed by everyone in the empire.
Therefore, all the Christmas carols, gifts, Trees and lights trace their remnants to those pagan celebrations. It was in the thirteenth century that St. Francis of Assisi invented the first live Christmas crib/manger to help people to appreciate the birth of Christ in a real sense in their time and age.
So the word ”Christmas” is the English rendition of the Latin ”Christes Masse” (Christ’s Mass), since this was the only time in the Catholic Church year when a Midnight Mass was allowed. It was celebrated on midnight on the eve of Christ’s birth.
All over the world Christmas is celebrated by families, friends, individuals and communities to commemorate the Birth of Christ. So we celebrate the birth of the son of God who conquers sin and death. We make merry on this day because our redeemer (conqueror) has finally arrived. It is time to share and care. We rejoice with celebrations.
Remember the following:
Enjoy your holidays. Thanks a lot for your Christmas gifts, cards and treats. You are in my prayers. Love you all. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Any little kindness is like an ocean that never dries with the gratitude that comes with it.
Through out the whole year we, as a faith and praying community (The Tri-Parish), have multiple reasons to celebrate on Christmas Day. Indeed, God has been good to all of us as individuals, families and friends.
Because of our trust in God, even though there were times we encountered unpleasant circumstances, our faith kept us hoping against hope. There were moments of joy and happiness that we celebrated to glorify the graciousness of God.
Finally, God the Father made us a promise of a present/gift: which is the BIRTH OF CHRIST. We prepared ourselves physically and spiritually to welcome His coming. At long last, CHRISTMAS is once again here with us! See it as an opportunity to CARE (call and visit) and SHARE (gifts and presents) to keep CHRIST (love and peace) in your daily life.
Let your celebrations portray the meaning of Christmas to strengthen family fraternity, solidarity and unity. Enjoy your Christmas treats with a joyous smile!
MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR!!
FOURTH SUNDAY OF ADVENT
”Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, not even if your whole world seems upset. If you find that you have wandered away from the shelter of God, lead your heart back to Him quietly and simply.”
The quest for peace in our contemporary world today has been arbitrarily conjectured to be dependent on personal achievements and possessions.
However, there are many who are successful and own a lot of wealth, yet are not at peace with themselves, leading to suicides, depressions, anxieties, addiction to alcohol and drugs in our societies.
This means that the actuality of peace is in Christ Jesus. So, in the last lap of our Advent journey, we light the ”Angels Candle” which highlights the greatest gift from God: which is PEACE. The angels echoed, ” Peace on earth...Goodwill to men.” Without Christ, our quest for peace is futile. He is the Prince of Peace. At the same time, the attainment of peace is a sequel to total reliance and trustful obedience to the will of God.
The Church gives us the stark contrast between King Ahaz and Joseph: each faced with a difficult situation. Whereas, the former relied on his own wit and scheme, the later absolutely relied on God alone and totally trusted Him.
In the first reading, King Ahaz got himself in a fix when he had planned to seek an alliance with a pagan nation, Assyria, to fight his enemies, instead of trusting and relying on God.
So, the Prophet Isaiah gave him the sign of ”Emmanuel - God with us” to encourage him to have faith in Yahweh and not to ally himself with Assyria: they don't have to act as if God has left them alone. But he wouldn't listen, and was determined to go ahead with the alliance.
In his attempt to refuse, he gave an excuse that it would be ”tempting God.” The consequence of his decision was the overthrow of his Kingdom and the peace of the people taken away from them.
Sisters and Brothers in Christ, sometimes when life presents overwhelming challenges to us, we behave like King Ahaz: we want to be in control of our decision making without seeking God’s help. We often doubt God. We think God is slow in action. We needlessly end up compounding our situation by stirring our waters of peace. If we really desire peace we must eschew our ”Ahaz attitudes and behaviors.”
So, Paul, in the second reading, places a premium on the origin and source of Jesus Christ. He emphasizes that He is the descendant of David. He has been revealed and established by the Father as a son of God in power. This means that His birth brings everything good from God the Father - including peace.
That is why the Psalmist echoes, ”Let the Lord enter; He is the King of glory.” (Ps. 24).
In conclusion, our gospel reading presents Joseph as a noble example and a model of Christian virtues. He was heckled with a very difficult life challenging situation, but he totally relied on God and trusted God absolutely. Allowing the will of God to take place.
Indeed, it is by his faith and obedience that the birth of Christ is made a reality for us. Just imagine if he had behaved and acted like King Ahaz - would we have had our Prince of Peace?
In life it takes one person’s sacrifice and love to make the world a better place to live in. Somebody’s peace (success, happiness, joy, progress and breakthrough) is dependent on you. Like Joseph, just allow it to flow! Let us live and act in peace, but not in pieces!
Peace and joy to you and your family. Enjoy the Christmas chills. Enjoy the sunshine whilst it lasts.
THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT
”We need to acknowledge jubilantly that our life is essentially a gift, and recognize that our freedom is a grace. This is not easy today, in a world that thinks it can keep something for itself, the fruits of it's own creativity or freedom.”
As we prepare ourselves to meet the birth of Christ, we are already in the midway of Advent. In this GAUDATE SUNDAY, which simply means REJOICING SUNDAY, we are full of joy for the closeness of the birth of Christ. The gladness radiating from our hearts can not be quantified, because the assurance for our redemption is guaranteed. The anticipatory expectations of the Savior’s coming are almost few days away. Hopes sustained: dreams and wishes close to reality and fulfillment.
This joyful feeling reminds me of my first ever experience in driving in the winter last year (January, 2018). As part of my pastoral responsibility I had to visit a sick parishioner in Red Cliff, WI, to administer the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, when the snowfall was heavy.
As an African, driving in snow for the first time is a new ”Driving Test!” Just oblivious of the intricacies and the dangers involved, I naively drove my car through her driveway and my car sunk into the built-up snow with my wheels continuously spinning. I applied all my driving skills to get myself out, but I even ended up worsening the situation. I was completely stuck in the snow, so deep! I was really cold.
In fact, my heart was frightened, I was helpless and in dire need of assistance. Just hoping against hope. I nearly shed tears because I didn't actually know what to do next. For half an an hour I was in a state of despair and frustration!
Then, from nowhere, I heard a stranger’s voice shouting, “Can I help you?” Without wasting much time and not even sure of who that person was, I also screamed back, “Yes! Please don’t go!”
This Good Samaritan came to apply all his skills, but to no avail. He finally used a chain to pull my car from the snow with his truck onto the main road. Then, I heaved a big sigh of relief. I began to smile, I was overjoyed and happy... finally I had been rescued. It was a REJOICING moment for me. I thanked him, he smiled back.
Have you ever had such an experience in your life like that before, and finally someone helped you out? Mine was Snow Experience! What is yours?
It’s the same scenario that the Israelites found themselves in the first reading, in exile in Babylon for sixty years, until God came to their rescue to redeem them and set them free from servitude. Isaiah prophesied, “Do not let your hearts be frightened; be strong, do not fear... your vindicator is just close...” This was a joyous moment for them.
Humanity has been enslaved by their sinful consequences. This has led us into servitude. The guilt in our conscience has become a nightmare that keeps on frightening us. So the assurance of the coming of Jesus Christ must gladden our hearts: because he comes with reconciliation, mercy, love and peace. Indeed, we rejoice!
Apostle James in the second reading encourages us to be patient in every situation in life. In your destitute situation, be careful of your decision, words, actions, thoughts and sentiments. Just exercise patience and wait on the Lord, for the Lord’s time is the best. Patience pays, absolute patience pays absolutely!
Finally, our gospel reading speaks about John the Baptist, who heralds the coming of the Christ. He prepares the way for him.
As Christians our commitment to prayer, penance and sacrifice are means of preparing ourselves for the coming of Christ to be ready for His birth on Christmas day. We do this rejoicing because God’s promise is nearing fulfillment.
Be ready! Just rejoice!
THE SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT
”Do not despair, do not despond, but renew your soul by repentance, and tears, and confession, and by doing good things. And never cease doing this.”
When I was very young my grandpa always promised me a present (gift) for Christmas. This made me very anxious and eager every year. But it came with expectations! It meant I had to do well in school, go to church regularly and behave well to be “worthy” of that present.
I believe every grandma and grandpa has a present (gift) for their grandkids this Christmas. I can imagine how the kids are so eager and anxious! They are already in the fantasy world, wondering what is in the parcel!
In lieu of this scenario that I want you to understand that God the Father has promised us a gift (present) for this Christmas. That is, the birth of Christ. But before we merit it we need to prepare for his coming with REFORMATION (faith) in this Advent.
It is against this background that the prophet Isaiah, in our first reading, called for reformation amongst the Israelites and bolstered the hope of the people that God will respond to their sincere conversion (repentance) by giving them a new King who has the spirit of the LORD on him to rule them with justice and peace.
As human as we are a lot has gone on in our lives throughout this year which have disintegrated our friendship with God and distorted our relationship with our neighbors: leadings us to live as if we are enemies of one other. We have become spiritually poor, lowly and afflicted.
So to make harmony and peace to prevail we need reformation in every facet of our lives.
But, this can be realized only when we allow the spirit of God to work in our lives. We must strive to give God his rightful place in our daily lives and to follow the path that leads to justice and peace in our families, workplace and communities by intensifying our communal prayers, penance (forgiveness and compassion) and sacrificing (sharing and caring).
The theme for reformation to engender justice and peace continues to run through Apostle Paul’s thoughtful exhortation to the Christian community of Rome in our second reading.
The Christian Jews seemed to have had a hard time accepting the Christian Gentiles in their community. So Paul employs the “Christ factor” to promote harmony and peaceful co-existence amongst them.
So he encourages, “May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcome you, for the glory of God.”- Romans 15:5-7.
My dear family of God, in this Advent season we need to reform our mind sets and perceptions we hold against people and give open arms to make justice and peace (which Christ comes with - the gift of the Father) prevail. If the world can become a better place it depends on you!
Finally, in our gospel reading John the Baptist makes a clarion call to repentance (reformation) in anticipation of the coming of the Messiah (Jesus Christ).
His call was in response to curtail the ascendency of moral corruption, injustice, religious degeneration and the rise of vices amongst the people.
He reprimanded them to instill justice, peace, orderliness and complete obedience of the commandments. A total demand for conversion and reformation.
As Christians Advent season invites us to take a sober look into our lives and see how we are faring: our response to the principles of our faith, our obedience to the Ten Commandments, our commitment to our family values, how we have treated people, our heart desires and our thoughts.
We need conversion and reformation to enjoy the Father’s present (gift) on Christmas Day. Do this with faith! Remember this, “ Without God we can’t; without me God won’t” - St. Thomas Aquinas. May God increase our Faith.
Enjoy the mixture of the sun shine and the cold... isn’t that beautiful!
But stay safe on the road... don’t forget to bundle up. I love you all.
Fr. Emmanuel hails from Ghana and is passionate about the Gospel and bringing the love of Christ to all people. He speaks several languages, enjoys soccer and cooking, and loves St. Francis of Assisi.