The Light Shines- MERRY CHRISTMAS!
In just a few words this Gospel passage tells us what God gave us for Christmas. “The Word became flesh and lived among us.” There can never be a better gift given. And this exchange of gifts, as described by St Augustine—“God became man, so that man might become God.”
Each time we go to the Eucharist we continue participating in this exchanging of gifts with God. When the presiding priest pours a little water into the wine, he prays: “By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity”. We offer up at each celebration bread and wine as an offering, and we then in return receive the Body and Blood of the Lord. This is why we, as Christians, should “remember the dignity that Christmas gives you.” [Pope St Leo]. Christmas, the Incarnation, gives us the best of both worlds! “God became man so that man might become God.”
Christmas takes place just a few days after the winter solstice, which is the shortest day of the year [making it the longest night of the year]. But on that day of the solstice, the balance of significance begins to shift. Each day will be met with a longer period of light shining, and the night therefore doesn’t last as long. It is the heavens’ way of reminding us, a found in John’s Gospel, that “the light shines in the darkness and the darkness could not overcome it.” Christmas IS the birth of He who will call Himself the Light of the World.
Let the light continue to shine in the darkness. Let us rejoice in the coming of our Lord and Savior. Give thanks to God for this great exchange of gifts. The Lord of the angels became man today so that man could eat the break of angels!
REJOICE, HE HAS COME!
The Canticle of Zachary
If you follow the prayer cycle of the Church you would find that each day morning the Divine Office r ends with this wonderful canticle. There is NEVER at time that it is not included. There might be many things happening in your life, and it might pass you by, or you might fail to see the importance, but this Canticle of Zachary, is a great hymn of gratitude to God. It allows us to discover the spirit around us, and it welcomes the new day-one fill with Love and Compassion of God’s unending Love.
Zachary found a reason to be grateful and to celebrate even though he was, for a moment, struck with a being “dumb” for his disbelief of God’s message. But how can you be full of gratitude all the time? Luke tells us that with the newly reinstated speech, Zachary was “filled with the Holy Spirit.” It is important to know that the way forward is to always look with thanksgiving to what had come before. God had visited the people—“As he promised through the mouth of His Holy Prophets from of old.” Zachary recalls the promise to rescue the people of Abraham from their enemies. This litany leads to a great celebration of those last of the great prophets who “will go before the Lord to prepare his ways.” Zachary’s canticle radiates the new order the high priest’s own son; he will bridge the old and the new. He will become the mouthpiece announcing the coming of the Messiah who is to come.
When you pray the Divine Office in the morning you are collected together with all the people of good will and recall the works of God. You can NEVER have enough gratitude. This path of gratitude is a way of memory, recollecting the past, and creating a path forward to fully recognize God’s mission for each of us.
Benedictus Dominus Deus!
The Birth of John
It is customary that when a child is born, the mother and father pray and give thanks to God for the gift of a new, happy, and healthy life. This is no exception for Zachary and Elizabeth, as they were well beyond their child bearing years, and yet they had been blessed with a baby. Not only were they now blessed with this gift of new life, they were also greeted with the notion that this young baby boy—John—would be someone with an important vocation, “For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.” This was reaffirmed as Zachary had been struck “dumb”, but when he finally was able to speak, he spoke of the blessing that God had given to them. God had truly been so good to them, and it was all such a welcomed and joyous gift. They could not have known that the greatest gift of all was soon to be given. The gift of the Father’s Son, Jesus Christ, would soon be upon them and the whole world. He would soon come to begin His mission of salvation.
Sometimes the words of “gratitude” and “thankfulness” are not easily found in our own vocabulary. We often hear people refer to the act of “giving thanks to”, but never do we hear giving thanks because. We forget that at times we fail to be thankful for what God has granted us. When we see others that need more than we—we should not grumble but rather give thanks. When we are interrupted because someone calls, or comes to see us—we should not become irritated, but rather to welcome it as a visit or call from Christ. The Gospels tach us to have gratitude, to come to understand that all we have is a gift from God, and that we should always remain truly grateful for these gifts.
As we usher in the mystery and gift of the birth of Christ, let us try and have the grateful hearts of Elizabeth and Zachary who trusted that God would fulfill His promises to them. May we, like them, remember that God owes us nothing, but He does give us everything!
Rejoice in the coming of the Savior!
Matthew proclaims a lineage/ancestry of sorts for Jesus. This is not so that Jesus might be able to discover or come to discover things about his ancestors (human family), but rather so that we might come to better understand things about Christ that we should understand. Matthew speaks to us so that we can better understand who Jesus is from understanding HIS roots. This is accomplished in the opening words that are proclaimed, and then follows Christ’s “genealogy”—The Son of David- Son of Abraham. (It is in the Gospel of St Luke that this lineage is traced back even further, to Adam and Eve).
Matthew initially is proclaiming this message to Jewish Christians, bringing the news that Christ has been sent to fulfill the promises that were made to Abraham, the promise that came to David and to all those in his house. If, for Luke, Jesus the Christ is, more than Adam and infinitely more truly, the Son of God, for Matthew, Jesus the Christ is the fulfillment in human history of that salvation which began with Abraham. This is all presented to us through the coming of Christ, whom in indeed the Son of God and truly is the Son of Abraham, David, and of Mary.
We must reflect and remember that this lineage belongs to each one of us. For we each as Christians are reborn in and into Christ. The identity given and imposed on us in this fallen world, and through the history of sin, is abolished and washed clean. Our true nature and our purity is given once again to us through the rebirth into Christ – restoring us as a child of God.
REJOICE IN THE LORD!
So, year after year I can get online and see how this WILL BE the year that a person will change their life forever. Starting the beginning of this New Year, they will make changes that will permanently alter how they live their life. The new year will be the year for weight loss, saving money, finishing education, buying the new home, being more helpful to people; the list goes on. SO, what is wrong with this? NOTHING! But at the same time, everything is wrong with it.
We, as humans, can do many beautiful things. We are free (as Americans) to make many choices that will, in fact, alter every one of those things listed above. But can we do it ALONE? NOPE! So, my answer is to entirely ditch the notion of creating a New Year’s resolution. Forget it, will not work, and cannot work.
It is the strength that Christ gives us that we can complete any and everything. With that in mind if you wait until January 1 to create your New Year Resolution then you are about 28 days too late (give or take a few days). Why is this? The New Year started for us on December 2, 2017! Talk about being a day late and a dollar short! Think of it this way, to make something happen we have to have faith that Christ will walk the road with us, and that the strength of our Lord God will be with us at every turn to help us through those resolutions we wish to make. Without the help of God, we cannot complete the tasks.
So disclaimer, I did not make a “solid” resolution this year, but instead my goal was to continue doing what I have been doing this past year which is to continue to shape and mold the better me! To do it through living the life Christ has called me to live and to look forward—knowing that none of it is possible without the love and strength given to me by Christ.
So what are your Advent Goals? (even though it has passed you can still have them—its better late than never RIGHT?) Happy 2018 to ALL!
Lawrence V. McCrobie