CHRISTMAS

“And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us and we saw his glory, the glory of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth”
John 1:14

 

 

 

My Dear Friends in Christ,

Thank you, Easter Bunny!! Bawk!! Bawk!! In a 1984 commercial for M&M’s, children would climb out from behind furniture holding the candy that had been hidden there. And they would look up and thank the Easter Bunny who was kind enough to have provided it for them. It was such a precious ad and has become part of popular culture. I often reference it when someone gives me a gift, or I find something unexpected. I’ve been thinking a lot about that ad this Advent season as my first thought was there is little to be thankful for.

Thank God (literally) that God knocked me upside the head (figuratively) and reminded me of the greatest gift that comes at Christmas and, indeed all year round: Jesus Christ. It saddens me that I need to be reminded of this. Perhaps it’s understandable in this year of so much suffering, upheaval, confusion and violence. It’s in times like these though, that I need to double down and remember what (should say WHO) is truly important. God is not  distant from us, no matter how difficult the year, no matter how great the obstacle or horrific the suffering. God comes and God comes CLOSE, to offer love, support, consolation, tenderness, refuge, challenge, strength, determination, perseverance. This is not Mary Poppins-Pie in the Sky wishful thinking Rose colored glasses. This is God, down and dirty, struggling with me in the muck and the mire of my life.  God took on flesh to do this. We call this GIFT, the Incarnation (from the Latin word “carne” which means flesh). It’s the miracle of God putting aside Divinity, Omnipotence, Omniscience, and Omnipresence to take on our humanity with all its burdens, challenges, and limitations. God takes on our flesh.

In a single line John articulates the Incarnation in the boldest way. John is unambiguous, almost shocking in the expressions he uses. More literally translated, the Word pitched his tabernacle, or lived in his tent, amongst us. The ‘tent of meeting’ was the place where the LORD ‘would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend.’ (Exodus 33:11) The tabernacle was where God met with Israel before the temple was built, a tabernacle erected at God’s command (Exodus 25:9). Most commonly, the term referred to the glory of God who made himself present in the tabernacle and the temple: the bright cloud of the presence of God settled on the tabernacle, and the glory of the Lord filled it. (Ex. 24:16; 40:34–35; similarly, the temple, 1 Ki. 8:10–11). These were tangible signs of God’s glory, the visible manifestation of God. God manifested himself most clearly when the Word became flesh. The incarnate Word is the true the ultimate manifestation of the presence of God amongst human us, for God’s Word has become one of us, a human. God has chosen to dwell among his people in a yet more personal way, in the Word-become-flesh.

God wants a personal connection with each of us, not through some distant manifestation of power and glory but the gentle care and concern of Jesus. God comes without the smoke (or mirrors!) or the manifestations of power. God comes in the gentleness, in “every-dayness” of a baby, a baby who will grow in grace and age and wisdom to manifest God truly most awesome power: the gentle love of God’s mighty hand and outstretched arm.  And this same God comes to us no less really, no less profoundly than he did over 2,000 years ago in stable beneath a star. This same God comes to us in the grace of the Spirit. This is what we celebrate at Christmas: we are not alone. God is with us! Emmanuel.

And as I reflected on the attitude of gratitude that I should have towards God, I became more aware of the many blessings we have had even in this dumpster fire of a year. Even the blessing of technology that has allowed us to reach out to so many. More on those blessings later but I wanted to say a few Thank You’s for those who worked so hard at Christmas to remind me of what is truly important:

I want to thank Lauren Dutrow and all those who helped her with our efforts for St. Nick delivers.

I want to thank our Haiti Committee who have coordinated our goat drive this year for our partner community in Haiti.

I want to thank our staff who took on the challenge of our biggest Christmas Eve ever by finding new ways to reach out and to Terry Kirby and Emily Kaufman for the extra work of coordinating those efforts

I want to thank Sue Leggieri Mari Prendergast and their team of volunteers for putting together our Advent Wreath kits and then our Christmas Eve kits.

I want to thank Sonia VandenBosch and her team of people who decorated the church, turning the dark solemnity of Advent patience into the Bright explosion of Christmas JOY.

I want to thank all of our ministers and ministerial coordinators for serving at our liturgies.

I want to thank Nancy Beith, Erin Breeden, Olivia Mann, Josie Hall and all of our musicians who, even though we can’t sing when we’re together, made sure we had Christmas carols to ring in the birthday of Christ.

I want to thank Emily and Josh Kaufman and all of our stream team for the work that they did and the experts they called in (Arlen Stehney and Pat Saccoia) to help out.

I want to thank Serv-Pro of Frederick (our own Art and Jennifer Hall) who made sure our church was clean and safe for our in-person Masses.

I want to thank our “stable hands,” Rob Bakale, Toby Carter, and Joe Inzirillo who built our stable last year but made it strong enough to withstand nuclear winter so we could use it again this year!

I want to thank Makaley Swam and her art team that put together the backdrop for our creche this year.

I want to thank Linda Berry and her team of volunteers who stuffed, sealed and mailed all of our postcards and then turned around and printed all of the Mass preparation we needed,

I want to thank Matt Hassaine for his constant efforts to sacristan and help wherever he could.

Lastly, I want to thank all of our people whose generosity of prayer, service and financial resources have kept us going.

It may have been a difficult year but there is still much to be thankful for and gratitude is more necessary than ever to keep me from becoming bitter, jaded or cynical. THANK YOU… not to the Easter Bunny but to God and to all of you. BAWK! BAWK!

Peace,

 

 

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