LAST DAYS TO PREPARE
We are now in the last days of preparation for Christmas. We again know all too well that this Christmas will be very different and very challenging. The pandemic is getting worse despite the good news that vaccines are here. There is light at the end of this dark tunnel but still a long way to go until we see COVID-19 in our rear view mirror. What does this mean for us this Christmas?
THE HEART OF CHRISTMAS
What is at the heart of Christmas? Of course it is the birth of our Lord and Saviour!! It is all about how much God loves us that he sent his only Son not to condemn us but to save us and bring us the gift of eternal life. The gift of the Incarnation (God becoming human) is so that we can become like God!! These seem to be words or thoughts that are common for Christmas but maybe they will take on extra meaning this year. I truly think that the pandemic is changing the way we see things and the way we prioritize what is most important in our lives. This is why I think we need Christmas more than ever. This very challenging and different time which is supposed to be “the most wonderful time of the year” may in the end allow us to hear the message of Christmas more clearly than ever. What is this Christmas teaching me?
(1) CHRISTMAS IS ABOUT LOVE
The power of the Christmas story is that God loves all of us and Jesus comes to save us. He does this by showing us how much God cares for us and at the heart of our earthly lives is going beyond ourselves helping others. We are all called to be Christ for one another. Jesus sets the example of discipleship and we are called to follow by taking up our cross and journeying to heaven. Easier said than done but the more we realize this I think the more powerful and engaging life really is. When we discover our lives are all about relationships and not about things, there is a freedom that comes over us that brings joy, peace and grace. How am I loving and helping those around me and those in need? What am I upset about this Christmas? How will I creatively and meaningfully connect with those I cannot be with this Christmas sharing the joys of the season?
(2) WHAT IS REALLY IMPORTANT?
With all the chaos that is happening in the world with the pandemic and all the changes that we have all made and all the sacrifices needed for us to survive—it seems just too overwhelming at the moment for many. This is so true. We all know of the many hardships, challenges and sad stories of loss, struggle and loneliness in our world today.
We here at the parish, with the support of some truly amazing volunteers, have tried to help people connect, share and support one another. This has occurred through our online Masses, devotions and special events. We have also offered retreats, online discussions and have called everyone on our parish list. We see groups like the Knights, CWL, St. Vincent de Paul and others stay connected and reaching out helping those who are in need. What powerful signs of hope, love and compassion.
This Christmas is helping me prioritize what is really important—each of us taking care of one another and walking together. It is definitely not about the presents, the rush for buying stuff and not about how perfect the decorations are, the bulletin or how beautiful the parish website is. I often get too caught up in the minor things of life that then overshadow what is most important. My relationship with God and my connection and service to others has come to the top. What has been taken away this Christmas so far has allowed me to focus much more on what is most important—being Jesus for those around me. Unfortunately, it has taken a global pandemic to help me focus in on the essentials. A difficult blessing indeed!!
(3) HEAVEN IS OUR GOAL
Maybe it is because I am getting older but the reality of our final destiny sits in my mind more and more. When we are young, we don’t think much about the end but with age comes wisdom and with wisdom we see the bigger picture. There is no question that my ministry as a priest always directs me to the ultimate reality of heaven when our earthly journey concludes. Life is really about heaven, and that is where we all want to be—that is the place of total peace, joy and love which never ends.
During the pandemic I have seen on a few occasions the faith, trust and hope of those preparing for their final journey home to Christ our loving savior. Their unwavering trust in Jesus during the most challenging and dark times showed me the heart of Christmas—which is the love of God that we share with one another.
(4) CHRISTMAS SURPRISE
Often God works in surprising and unexpected ways. God can surprise us with light, joy and peace when we go through suffering, hardships and sacrifices. This is why I think that this Christmas may be the most important one in our lives. The pandemic has turned everything upside down. We can complain and try to unsuccessfully wake up from this nightmare or we can look for and be surprised by God’s love, hope, joy and peace in ways that seem impossible for us to see. May this Christmas transform our lives and see God’s grace in new and more powerful ways!!