The story of our salvation is retold every year through the observances in the Church Calendar. It begins with Advent (the coming) as we reflect on the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures.
God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
We look back in the Hebrew Scriptures to the prophet Isaiah who predicts what kind of a Savior the Father is sending us.
Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen,
in whom my soul delights;
I have put my Spirit upon him;
he will bring forth justice to the nations.
He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice,
or make it heard in the street;
a bruised reed he will not break,
and a faintly burning wick he will not quench;
he will faithfully bring forth justice.
He will not grow faint or be discouraged
till he has established justice in the earth;
and the coastlands wait for his law.
Thus says God, the Lord,
who created the heavens and stretched them out,
who spread out the earth and what comes from it,
who gives breath to the people on it
and spirit to those who walk in it:
“I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness;
I will take you by the hand and keep you;
I will give you as a covenant for the people,
a light for the nations,
to open the eyes that are blind,
to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
from the prison those who sit in darkness.
We turn to the Christian Scriptures to hear the story of the arrival of the Savior, Jesus Christ, as we celebrate the Feast of Christmas.
Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).
During the Advent/Christmas season, we try to bring the Spirit of Jesus into our current world. In the past, there were beautifully decorated churches, joyful Masses and Services, Christmas trees, gift-giving, random acts of kindness, cards or visits to relatives and friends, Christmas baskets and toys for the needy, Christmas shows, concerts, etc.
This Christmas will be somewhat different. Rather than gathering together for Christmas parties, avoiding crowds and parties may be one of the best gifts we give one another to prevent the spread of the deadly virus.
However, we can still celebrate with the use of our creativity and technology. Virtual church services, Zoom gatherings, sending cards and gifts through the mail. With less money to spend, homemade cards and gifts may delight our loved ones. If you have the financial means, donating to help a family that does not have income would be appreciated. A telephone call might brighten someone’s day.
Listening to Christmas carols can bring back happy memories. One of my favorites is ”O Holy Night.” Just taking the time to reflect on the words can bring Peace.”
‘O Holy Night’ is a timeless Christmas carol, composed by Adolphe Adam in 1847.
O holy night, the stars are brightly shining,It is the night of the dear Saviour’s birth;
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
'Till he appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn;
Fall on your knees, Oh hear the angel voices!
O night divine! O night when Christ was born.
O night, O holy night, O night divine.
Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming;
With glowing hearts by his cradle we stand:
So, led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here come the wise men from Orient land,
The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger,
In all our trials born to be our friend;
He knows our need, To our weakness, no stranger!
Behold your King! Your King! Before he bends!
Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is Love, and His gospel is Peace;
Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother,
And in his name, all oppression shall cease,
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we;
Let all within us praise his Holy name!
Christ is the Lord, then ever! ever praise we!
His power and glory, evermore proclaim!
His power and glory, evermore proclaim!
How are you going to make this Christmas special?
Have a Blessed Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year!
Pat Chiaffa, ASBS
Our great and glorious God revealed his love for us by sending his beloved Son, Jesus, to dwell amongst us. Reverence, peace, and hope touch our hearts when we gaze upon the Nativity scene. We get a glimpse into the wonder of life. However, somewhere between the Stable and our return to daily living, many of us come to believe that Jesus came to respond to our personal needs. Rarely do we recognize that “Christ in our midst” is an “invitation from God inviting us to participate in God’s universal creative work,” as suggested by Father Richard Rohr.
In his letter to the Romans (19,22) St. Paul writes, “The whole of creation is eagerly waiting for the revelation of the sons and daughters of God…all creation is groaning in one great act of giving birth.”
Sr. Pat Bergen, CSJ, offers a present-day reflection on those verses, “all of creation is in labor waiting for us to wake up and realize the fullness of who we are called to be – Christ.” Sister is referring to Christ's consciousness. “To awaken to this consciousness is to awaken to the reality that the ‘breath of God’ is sustaining all that is. Therefore, everything belongs to and participates in God and God participates in all that is. This is Good News for the universe!”
No longer can I be content with passive contemplation of the loveliness of the birth event of the Redeemer of the world. I recognize that it is time for me to move beyond my “me-centeredness” to a sense of self that Sr. Bergen identifies as including “the whole cosmos – a sense of self that is one with God and one with all that is, was or ever will be.”
My prayer during this Advent and Christmas season is that I will discern the voice of Jesus as I ponder my response to the awareness of journeying into the fullness of Christ.
Let us adore the Christ Child by living in His love and rejoicing in the miracle of His birth. Sr. Annette, wishing you, your readers, and their loved ones, a blessed and peaceful Christmas.
Stephanie Morris, Ph.D., ASBS, Historian, Certified archivist emerita
Our celebration of Christmas will be different this year for most of us.
Military families have been separated from loved ones for long periods and
often over holidays. We are fortunate that we can connect with family and friends
using technology. This season may be a little quieter and this may give us
some time to focus on the real meaning of Christmas.
We know "Jesus is the reason for the season" but how often do we talk to
the Infant King Who was born in poverty to give us the riches of salvation?
What gift did we get Jesus this year? A phone call to a shut-in relative or friend?
An extra Rosary for healing? Mother Katharine noted that Jesus came as an infant;
infants take small, "baby steps." We can take small steps in sharing
Christmas peace and joy with others.