Dear Sisters and Brothers in the Lord:
A priest and the manager of a large retail outlet happened upon one another. "When Christmas is over," said the manager to the priest, "it's over, and it's our job to rid this store completely of Christmas in one day." "Well," said the priest, "I've got a bigger job: to keep Christmas in the hearts of people for a lifetime!" We miss something if we think of Christmas only as a single day for remembering that Jesus was born 2,000 years ago. Ponder instead the words of St. Jerome: "Blessed are they who possess Bethlehem in their heart, and in whose heart Christ is born daily."
This is Christmas: not the tinsel, not the giving and receiving, not even the carols, but the humble heart that receives anew that wondrous Gift, Christ our Saviour. Many things contribute to the joy of Christmas, but none can compare to the Gift our heavenly Father gave that night so long ago. The Light shining from the humble manger is strong enough to light our way to the end of our days.
The Christmas tree reminds me of the Church -- the star on the top represents Christ (he is the head of the Church and we are the branches), the lights are his birthday candles, all the beautiful ornaments correspond to the good works of the Church members, and the stack of gifts beneath the tree are like the shower of gifts he pours out on us each day.
The Lord of hosts wished to inaugurate his kingdom by being born in the "little town of Bethlehem," entering our world in the silence and humility of a cave, and lying, a helpless babe, in a manger. In that lowly manger, in that cave at Bethlehem, he who is truly the firstborn of all that is came to dwell in our midst. The carol "O Little Town of Bethlehem" contains the words:
"How silently, how silently, The wondrous gift is giv'n!
So God imparts to human hearts The blessings of his heav'n."
"The hinge of history is on the door of a Bethlehem stable" (Ralph Sockman). It could be said that our lives are the humble "stables" into which our Lord is born -- as often as we make him feel welcome, whenever we make space for him in our lives, for as we get older, we get so busy and so numb to the blessedness of Christmas.
Christmas comes again to remind us that Jesus was born -- and lived and died and now lives again -- so we might live forever with him in eternal joy and peace. I am looking for-ward to celebrating my first Christmas with you! May you enjoy a "Mary" Christmas and may the happiness of Mary on the first Christmas be with you and your families always!
Fr. Peter Rowe
Pastor / Parish Priest