This Fourth Week of Advent will be the shortest of them all – lasting only one day! I often used that last week to make some “last-minute” Christmas purchases. Yet, that won’t be the case this year. However, since Christmas is really a 12-day celebration (Hanukah lasts 8), I’ll be able to justify my late purchases as prolonging the feast!
Recently, I spotted an advertisement for a virtual reality headset which shows what may be a teenage boy (or girl – I can’t tell because the person’s face is covered by the VR headset) staring up at the ceiling, or rather into the virtual world they are in, relaxing in plaid pajamas. The caption reads: “Get more. Get merrier.” What a shame! I didn’t buy anyone a virtual reality headset – be forewarned family and friends! Yet, according to the advertisement, Christmas will not be merry unless I provide a machine that can block out the real world, or go into debt so someone can have the best product for a year – before a newer model comes out next November.
It’s easy to have this mentality around Christmas: “Get more. Get merrier.” Stores and the Internet are filled with the products that are filling people’s homes, all for the sake of supposedly getting happier; all for letting someone know you love them because the price tag says so. So, if you paid less for someone else, that shows where your heart is – in the credit card compartment of your wallet!
But I wonder, how would they react if they were told that there is one thing that will make them merriest – and it’s free? Would parents flock to our church if they learned that the priest is giving away the greatest gift of all starting this Sunday afternoon, and doing it again at certain times listed in the bulletin? Would children leave their gifts under the tree for an hour longer if they could sit in the place of their spiritual rebirth and gaze upon a miniature scene of that first Christmas? Perhaps the person in the advertisement could take off the virtual reality set and actually look at the world and see the love that is offered on that day.
The radio channels have been reminding us that this is “The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year.” But one of my favorites is hearing George Michael sing, “Last Christmas, I gave you my heart;” and thinking that maybe this year, on Christmas Eve, entering the Church and going up to the altar to receive Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, “this year…I’ll give it to someone special.”
We, too, can give a gift that expresses a fulfilling of our personal needs by offering gifts to those in real need. This weekend, there will be one more opportunity this year to help those in our diocese who are deprived of so many of the things in life that we take for granted. The special 2nd collection this weekend, especially the BIG one on Christmas, will be for those who will benefit from our Christmas spirit by our goodness and generosity to them. The DSA Special Collection will not only help our Bishop to reach out to them, but will also help our seminarians to attain their goal of Priesthood. It will mean that the message of God sending His Divine Son to give real dignity to (our) humanity will take on a particular form in our own diocese – indeed, even in our neighborhood. Don’t just tell Jesus you love Him; show it now!!
The readings of this 4th Sunday of Advent and the closeness of Christmas pull us into reflections on the Incarnation. Christmas is not only the Feast of Christ’s birth, but the celebration of the entire mystery of God taking on a human nature – beginning with the event narrated in today’s Gospel, whereby Christ was conceived within Mary’s body. God redeems us by joining every aspect of our lives to His. God even becomes an unborn child. Human life was already sacred because it always was and is God’s creation, made freely from his love. But in the Incarnation it takes on an even deeper meaning and sanctity, because human nature is forever united with Divine Life. This affects all who share human nature, even the children still in the womb. That is why St. John Paul’s encyclical, Evangelium Vitae, can make the following two assertions: “Life, especially human life, belongs only to God: for this reason whoever attacks human life, in some way attacks God himself” (n. 9).
“By his Incarnation the Son of God has united himself in some fashion with every person. It is precisely in the “flesh” of every person that Christ continues to reveal Himself and to enter into fellowship with us, so that rejection of human life, in whatever form that rejection takes, is really a rejection of Christ” (n. 104).
On behalf of all the Priests and Deacons and Staff of our parish, I wish all of you the choicest of God’s blessings for this Christmas Season, and a happy, healthy and Holy New Year!