One of my earliest memories of Christmas, besides waiting as the top of the stairs to hear Grandma Susie say goodbye to Santa, was of our family Manger Scene. I remember it vividly
It was made up of 16 plaster statues
There were Jesus, Mary, and Joseph,
3 Shepherds two of whom were kneeling,
3 kings one was kneeling and one led a camel,
There was an angel who we called Gloria.
She was dressed in blue and held a sash with her name. There was a cow without a tail,
and a donkey without an ear. Finally there were three little sheep who used to ride with baby Jesus in coal car of my train which was under the tree. The figures were pretty bumped up from 2 boys and 4 grandchildren.
And it is still in my mom’s house
We’ve had it for 61 years. I can remember as a little boy laying on the floor of the living room and peering into the stable and rearranging the figures and telling myself the story over and over again. As banged up as that little Manger scene was it taught me many important lessons. Here is some of what I learned.
Jesus Our Lord and
Jesus our Savior and Jesus our Brother was born in a stable… He was born in a stable that
we might understand that a simple life can be a good life. He was born in the stable that
We might understand that we don’t need every new gadget. We don’t need every modern convenience.
We don’t need huge houses impossible to clean and pay for. The stable reminds us all that
sometimes we work so hard for things that rust and rot away that
and we miss the things and the moments which really are important. As we look into the stable and gaze upon the manger…
let us remember that a simple life can be a good life indeed. Jesus was…
Wrapped in swaddling clothes and
laid in a Manger on a bed of straw. The manger held the food for the animals
It shape also made a perfect bed for Jesus. But as I grew up I came to understand that there was a special symbolism here. For Jesus and Jesus alone is indeed our Heavenly food only he can satisfy our hunger. Every time we gaze on the manger
it is important to remember that we will only ever be satisfied
when we eat the Bread of Life and drink the cup of salvation. Only God
God’s will and purpose
Only God’s Love can fill us up and satisfy us
Every other “satisfaction” is an illusion…
Our souls will not rest until they rest in God both on earth and in heaven. The manger also taught me that Upon Him a star shown bright
For God wanted to make sure that everyone could find him
and that everyone knew that they were loved. The star was a indeed a beacon of hope to a world quite frequently lonely and broken.
It is impossible to hide a bright light in the sky.
It is impossible not to notice a bright shining star. Why the Star
The message of the star and the message of the Gospel are clear The star shown in the sky so that all of humanity in every age might find God’s Son and be saved. And
Indeed they came
They came from the east bearing gifts
They came from the neighboring fields
They came from the heavens themselves The Son of God was greeted by both shepherds and kings
The rich and the poor
The powerful and the weak
The famous and the not so famous
The healthy and the sick
The loud and the shy
The lowly and the great And all of creation was filled with joy at the sight of a God who became a baby In these frenetic days of family and friends
In these days of gifts food, and drink Pray God that we learn the lessons of the Manger well • A Simple life is a good life
• Only God can satisfy our deepest hungers
• The star shines on everyone as does God’s Love
• All are welcome Best wishes for a most blessed Christmas and a happy and holy new Year
May the Peace of Christ Reign in our Hearts As we get closer to Christmas there is so much to do… If you are organized you've probably gotten a lot of it done
But then there are the rest of us. I’m sure I’m forgetting something but here goes.. Christmas lists
buying or climbing into the attic to get is.
One Friary keeps all of their trees in the bell tower with a big bag over it. Christmas decorating no offence but I think we have the best looking house on the block… oops were the only house on the block (Fr. Michael’s Handiwork) Wrapping and delivering Christmas present
Christmas meal planning
Christmas food runs to Stop and Shop or Stews
If you need to work on patience in your life… go and try to keep from screaming when the lady in front of you picked a ham with no price label at Stews ? Getting your hair done Christmas Christmas packing (if you are traveling)
Christmas house cleaning
I’m sure there’s more Preparation Preparation Preparation
There is so much to do Sad to say I have one more thing to add to our list. When Fr. Raymond and I came here the Attic in the friary was filled stuff there was so much stuff up there. There was even stuff up there from friars long gone home to God and other places…
I got a good pair of shoes from the attic who know who they belonged to. I even found Fr. Herbert’s High School Yearbook. Finally one day with the help of our volunteers we got a construction dumpster and loaded it up with junk... It had to be done.
The stuff would not go away by itself. Just like we cleaned the attic
Before Christmas each of us has to clean out the stable of our heart hence the signs on the doors. We have to remove any trace of anger or resentment especially towards family member that we will see over the break.
We have to forgive them that’s what God does for us. We have to remove our gossip and our laziness
We have to get rid of our greed and our lack of fidelity. We have to remove from our hearts the selfishness that keeps us from giving God His rightful place in our lives. We have to get rid of all of the lies and exaggerations we have told. We have to remove everything which keeps us from being the Men and Women that God would have us be. And it's not enough for us to say I'm gonna do better....
we’ve all done that before… I know I do that everyday Part of the healing process is to force ourselves to say I'm sorry. Saying I'm sorry if very very important indeed. So important that God even gives us
A special sacrament where we can express our sorrow and know that we are forgiven. Yep there’s one more thing to do before Christmas
One more thing to add to the list. Our Parish Christmas Confessions will be held on Tuesday starting at 7:00 PM.
John the Baptism was a real person.
He is not a myth or a story.
He lived and breathed and laughed and cried like you and me.
He was a holy man, a passionate man,
There is no doubt that he knew of his miraculous birth,
and from when he was a little boy knew that he that God had a special plan for him.
When we hear of John again years later
He has become an itinerant preacher calling people to repentance.
If you read the accounts in the Gospels it becomes clear that he was not calm or gentle in his ministry.
He was driven a desperate man.
He was hard on the people and he was hard on himself.
He lived in the dessert in the poorest of poor conditions because
material things and comforts did not mean anything to him.
He was a man on a mission.
John was all these things because he was sure without a shadow of a doubt that when the Messiah came so would God's judgment.
The Gospel today is difficult to understand
The scholars I've read look at it in two different ways.
The first one is simply this.
To many it appears that John is having doubts in prison.
Maybe, just maybe prison was taking its toll.
John had expected that the Messiah would come in a triumphant manner and judge the world.
That's why John was so desperate to get people to change their lives
He was convinced time was short.
And when all of these thing didn’t happen as he expected maybe he just wasn’t sure anymore about Jesus.
Maybe he had doubts,
and so it follows that he sent ijs trusted friends to talk to Jesus and find out what was going on.
“Are you the one who is to come or should we wait for someone?” he asked
Another interpretation of this passage goes like this.
John really had no doubts at all.
He knew the answer to his question before he asked it.
John sent his disciples to Jesus so that they would get to know him
and follow him.
Remember John's famous saying. “I must decrease he must increase.”
Sending his disciples to Jesus was just another way for him to decrease.
Scholars who follow this line of thought see John’s sending of his disciples as his last act of love and surrender to Jesus the Messiah.
So we have one passage but two really different interpretations.
Both of teach us something.
The first is simply this...
We should not be afraid of doubt.
Doubt will come to our marriages and relationships.
Doubt will come to our jobs.
Sometimes we will doubt our children or our ability as parents.
Most of us at some point in our lives will doubt ourselves.
Doubt is part of our human condition.
Maybe John was doubting… so what.
Maybe we have our doubts... so what.
If John’s questions was indeed and expression of doubt,
then it is important for us see how he handled it
and to listen to Jesus’ response.
Jesus did not get angry or upset that John was doubting.
He did not send his disciples back with a correction or rebuke
Rather he tried to use his good deeds to help John find consolation.
Jesus wanted John to find consolation as he suffered in prison.
When we have doubts God does not get angry with us but rather he wants to find a way to help us understand.
He wants us to find consolation.
The lesson for us is simple…
It’s ok to doubt.
Doubt may be the next step to a deeper faith
What’s important is that we follow John’s example and seek to understand.
If John was really not doubting at all but rather surrendering his dearest friends and followers to Jesus.
Then there is also a very important lesson for us indeed.
Love and sacrifice go hand in hand.
If John was sending his disciples to Jesus he did so because he loved them,
if John was sending his disciples to Jesus he did so because knew it would be best for them
John also knew that without them he would be more alone
He knew that he would be more at the mercy of his jailers and King Herod.
Yet love called John to sacrifice even his last remaining followers and that is what he did. The Lesson here is simple Love and sacrifice often go hand in hand.
Let us imitate John the Baptist
When doubt is a part of our lives let's not wallow in it but
rather let's do everything we can to find the answers we need.
When love calls let us not be afraid to answer no matter what the cost