Rejoice! This word captures the feeling that is building up inside of each of us as we anticipate the coming of Christ at Christmas. During this season of gift-giving, we recognize that the birth of Christ is the most wondrous gift that God has given to us. It expresses God’s great love for us and His promise to set us free from all that binds us up inside. I was reflecting on today’s 2nd reading in which St. Paul encourages the Philippians to “Rejoice in the Lord always!” That is because the Lord is near. Because of God’s nearness, St. Paul tells us to have no anxiety, so that the peace of God will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Wow! Who can top this gift: “The peace of God?” I am always amused by the story of the young priest who ran into the pastor’s office to report that Jesus has appeared in their church, and is walking down the aisle. In a state of panic, he asks the older priest: “What should we do?” Just as anxious as his younger colleague, the pastor responds: “For God’s sake father, look busy, look busy!” We all know from our experience that Advent & Christmas can either be times of great business and anxiousness or great peace. It really is up to us to choose which attitude we embrace for this time of the year. So many of us get caught up in the culture’s spirit of extreme business: e.g., shopping till we fall; working extra to make extra; being involved in so much holiday activity that we exhaust ourselves unnecessarily. Wouldn’t it be great for our hearts and minds if we followed St. Paul’s direction and made extra time for prayer and reflection; thanking God for His many gifts, and rejoicing in His love for us? St. Francis of Assisi was so in tune with the true meaning of the Nativity, that he spent precious time in prayer, quiet, fasting and charitable works during Advent. You probably already know that Francis created the original crèche. That is, he made a live Nativity scene so that the people could enjoy pondering the mystery of God becoming a human baby. He also wanted to give a gift to poor people who were sometimes not allowed to come too close to the altar in the cathedral to attend Mass. That was reserved for the wealthy people only. So may you have a holy, peaceful, and relaxing Advent and Christmas. Christ wants to share more of His gifts with you.
~ Fr. John