The time is almost here. Few things give me more joy than Christmastime. While it will truly be here in just a few more sleeps, I know some folks, sadly, are ready for it to be over. Perhaps, among other reasons, its because we “jump the gun” on Christmas to the point that we seem to have Christmas fatigue by the time the actual day and true season arrives. But, I digress; another debate for another time.
The first reading and the Gospel for this Fourth Sunday of Advent help to set the stage for our celebration of Christmas this coming week. Starting last Monday on December 17th, the focus of the season of Advent changed. We found ourselves looking forward to the return of Jesus at the end of time for the majority of the season; the tale-end of Advent, always starting on December 17th, invites us to begin to focus on the coming of Jesus as the child of Bethlehem. In the first reading we hear t h e Prophet Micah speaking of Bethlehem. The Gospel tells us of Mary’s visitation to her cousin Elizabeth where Mary finds her faith in the words of Gabriel confirmed by the fact that Elizabeth is with
What both Bethlehem and Mary have in common is that no one would have expected either of them to have anything to do with the coming of the Messiah; Bethlehem lacked the glory of its neighbor Jerusalem, even though Bethlehem truly is “David’s city” and Mary was a girl from a non-descript family in a back-water town called Nazareth, a town of maybe two-hundred people at the time. However, with both Bethlehem and Mary we see God doing wonderful things in and through them.
As we prepare to approach the manger, may it remind us that God performs some of his greatest acts in the unlikeliest of situations with some of the unlikeliest people.
If God chose for the birth of his only begotten son to take place in these circumstances then why do we at times think that God is limited by the circumstances of our individual lives? Psalm 126 declares “the Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.” The birth of our savior truly is a great and wondrous thing, but the goodness of God is not locked in the past. God is still looking to do great things in our lives. Like Mary, may we open our hearts in faith to the power and possibility of God’s action in our lives.
On behalf of Bishop Paprocki, Father Stock, Father Friedel, Deacon Smith, Deacon Keen, and the Cathedral parish staff, I wish you and yours a blessed and Merry Christmas. May the Christ child turn his tender face to you and gift you the joy and peace that come from him alone. God bless you!
PS – Here is a fun Christmas fact for you.
Did you know that this Christmas Eve will be the 200th anniversary of the first performance of Silent Night? It was originally composed in German in Austria when, as the likely dubious tradition states, the organ was in disrepair on Christmas Eve. The pastor had actually written the text two years earlier in 1816 and just before Christmas in 1818 asked the parish musician to set the words to music for guitar. Today the beloved Christmas hymn has been translated into approximately 140 languages and Bing Crosby’s recording of it is the third bestselling single of all-time
Father Christopher House is the Rector of the Cathedral and serves in various leadership roles within the diocesan curia, namely Chancellor and Vicar Judicial.