I want to start by wishing everyone a very happy belated Thanksgiving. I hope and pray that, in spite of how very different it was for most, your Thanksgiving was truly a time of giving thanks to God for all his many gifts and blessings.
As a new liturgical year begins, we begin to celebrate anew the holy season of Advent, a time for preparing our hearts and minds to celebrate the greatest gift and mystery our God has given. For as the words of the antiphon for the Canticle of Zechariah from Tuesday, the first week of Advent, states:
“From the root of Jesse a flower will blossom,
the glory of the Lord will fill the earth, and all
creation shall see the saving power of God.”
This Advent, perhaps as never before, we need to see and hear the HOPE, JOY, PEACE and LOVE – the POWER of these words. To do this, we need to recapture the great mystery of our God’s love for us. We need to become “as little children” whose eyes glow and imagination brings to life the mystery of the Christmas crèche.
There are so many events to celebrate, from the Annunciation, where the angel Gabriel proclaims, “Hail Mary, full of grace,” to the visitation of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth, where we hear John the Baptist leapt in the womb of his mother when he encounters Christ, the Incarnation in the womb of Mary, Mother of God, for the first time. The culmination of this great mystery is given to us in the nativity stories of Matthew and Luke.
This year, when our Christmas will probably look much different than years past, where our gift-giving may not be in person due to the pandemic, my prayer for you is that you can truly immerse yourself in the sacred traditions of our faith and the mystery of our God’s love for all people. May the Advent candles help us to anticipate Christ, the true light of the world, breaking into the darkness of our lives. May your nativity scene come alive with Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus, the new-born King of Kings. May we even use the Peanuts Christmas Special, with the little boy Linus proclaiming, “For unto us a child is born,” to unleash our childlike imagination as you journey with the shepherds, angels, and magi as we all follow the star to Bethlehem. In our hearts, may we sing out: “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” and “O Come All Ye Faithful.” And may we place the gift of our prayers for health and safety for one another and especially medical professionals and hospital staff at the manger of our Lord and Savior.
If you feel you can safely attend Mass this Advent season, I certainly encourage you to do so. I also encourage you to participate in your parish’s penance service during this sacred and holy time of the year.
My Advent prayer for you is that you will be filled with the hope, joy, peace, and love of the great mystery of our God, revealed to us in so many ways during this time of Advent.