As we enter this holy Season of Advent, I am conflicted and feel like a hypocrite in sending you a Christmas card the first week of December! I call myself an "Incarnationalist." I love the Christmas Season. But the Advent Season is an important time of our liturgical year to prepare us spiritually for the celebration of the Christmas Season, which does not begin until Christmas Eve and continues through the Epiphany of the Lord, (January 8 this coming year of 2017).
It is a challenge for us as Christians to live the Advent Season when the commercialism and materialism of the world around us has already begun to bombard us. "After Christmas Sales" begin December 25! I wonder if depression for some people around these "holidays" is that we spend so much time to prepare for something and then, the "celebration" is over befoer we even had time to celebrate. Let us strive to make these holidays to be "holy days!"
I encourage you as a family to consider small ways that you can enter into the Advent Season this year. One small way might be to wait to decorate your home for Christmas until closer to Christmas Day and to leave the decorations and lights up in your home until Epiphany. Another way is to have an Advent wreath in your home and light the candle(s) of the wreath and pray as a family before dinner each night. Do not listen to or sing Christmas carols until the Christmas Season begins. Make a date as a family of when you are coming to the Sacrament of Reconciliation to receive the gift of God's forgiveness. These are some exaples of how we can live the Advent Season. The Advent Season, (which means "coming"), is a time of waiting for the coming of the Lord history, mystery and majesty. We will spend time reflecting upon this at the Sunday homilies during this holy season here at St. John's.
The Mystery of the Incarnation is intimately tied to our parish patron Saint, John the Evangelist. "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. (John 1:1). "And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father's only Son, full of grace and truth." (John 1:14). Incarnation means to take on "flesh." God becomes one like us in all things but sin in the gift of His Son, who is born of flesh through the womb of Mary.
These are great mysteries of faith. Included with this letter, you will find a schedule listing our Mass times for these "Holy Days" of the Immaculate Conception, Christmas and Mary, Mother of God. Additionally, you will find times listed for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Keep this schedule posted in your home on the refrigerator as a visible reminder.
It is an incredible gift for me to serve as your pastor. We walk this journey of faith together. The Christmas Season of gift-giving is truly a special time of our year. The gift of Jesus Christ coming into our lives is the greatest of gifts! Many of you generously make contributions to the Church at the end of the calendar year. This year, December 31 falls on a Saturday. If you are making end of year contributions, please do so before December 30. Contributions received at the Saturday Vigil Mass on December 31 will be counted for the weekend of January 1, 2017. Have a blessed Advent Season!
In Christ's Service,