Reflecting on the Meaning of Christmas

Rebecca Doel In the Headlines

As Advent leads to Christmas, thoughts lead to many topics — family, gifts, the Virgin Mary, and the awareness of God’s outreach.

Several Holy Name Province Franciscans have shared thoughts about the season in their blogs and in parish bulletins. Below are excerpts from several Christmas-themed reflections.

James Vacco, OFM, pastor of St. Bonaventure Church, Allegany, N.Y. 
from Dec. 18, 2011 parish bulletin

I think many of us, including yours truly, get absorbed in the purchasing mode at this time of year and get frantic about what can I purchase for this one or that one; and then worry if they will like it or not. While that is not unusual, it does tend to occupy a lot of time and effort and thus distract us from the real reason we celebrate Christmas: “To remember once again the great love of God born for us and lived for us by Jesus.”

Now, with that in mind and soul, let me answer the question: “What do I want for Christmas? A deeper awareness of this great outreach of God to us and the vision to see it more and extend it more in the lives of those I come in contact with in ministry and friendship.” The second and equal part of that is: “I wish that same gift for you all plus some M&M’s.” (Hey, human nature is not all spiritual.)

Frank Sevola, OFM, pastor of St. Mary’s Church, Pompton Lakes, N.J.
from Dec. 18, 2011, parish bulletin

Today on this Fourth Sunday of Advent we hear of an angel visiting a young girl and asking her to play an incredible role in salvation history. That young girl, the Virgin Mary, said yes to the angel and yes to God, thereby offering herself as the dwelling place of our Savior. Mary becomes the God-bearer and gives birth to God in our world. She was a human person like us in all things but sin. She was probably scared and confused, but she did what was asked of her.

During this final week of Advent as we approach the great celebration of Christmas, let us all take some time to listen for the voice of an angel asking us to give birth to God in the world. Let’s all listen for the voice an angel that asks us to be faithful, to be helpful, to be welcoming and to be compassionate. Let’s all listen for the voice of an angel that asks us to do our part in salvation history and give birth to the presence of God in our world! Have a great week leading up to Christmas! Be assured that all of you are in the prayers of the friars as we celebrate this most holy feast. May the blessings of the Christ Child be yours now and always.

christmas-r1Casey Cole, postulant, St. Paul’s Friary, Wilmington, Del.
from “Rethinking the ‘Season of Giving’” on his blog, Breaking in the Habit

This year, I hope to no one’s surprise, I will not be buying any gifts for my friends and family members. For the amount I could possibly afford to spend on each person, it is simply not worth the trouble. This, however, doesn’t mean that I will be ditching the sentiment altogether: There’s something to be said about the altruistic nature of the holiday that doesn’t need to be thrown away with the consumeristic “bathwater.”

Instead of focusing on the time as the “Season of Giving,” I’m going to try to see it as the “Season for Faith, Hope, and Love,” in which the three cardinal virtues will be my gifts to others. Understanding that gift giving is only one way to show affection to others, my lack of financial means will force me to try a number of the others: quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service, and touch.

I certainly believe that it is situations such as these, facing circumstances that upset the status quo of our lives, that we come to see the world in a different (and usually better) way, learn a bit more about ourselves, and ultimately grow closer to God and neighbor. I pray that this Christmas will be one filled with new experiences centered around the hope and joy of the coming Lord.

Michael Johnson, OFM, pastor of St. Camillus Church, Silver Spring, Md.
from “The Trouble with Tupperware” on his blog Reflections of a Franciscan Gardener

As we await the coming of God, let us with humor take a look at the little things that annoy us and thus may cause us to miss where God “moves and lives and has His being” right under our noses and may cause to miss the Incarnation that we are all awaiting.

Just now I went down to the basement to get my laundry out of the dryer and pair up the socks. In the end I was left with one odd brown one. I took a deep breath, thought of Tupperware and smiled.

May God bless you and yours with a wonderful Christmas and may you never let the spirit of this holy season be troubled by Tupperware or other such things.

— Compiled by Jocelyn Thomas

Editor’s note: The rear collage shows (clockwise, from left) Jim, Frank, Casey and Michael in seasonal scenes.