God’s
got it.

For the Lord has redeemed Israel from those too strong for them. They will come home and sing songs of joy on the heights of Jerusalem. They will be radiant because of the Lord’s good gifts

The average temperature, that night, outside Bethlehem is forty-two degrees. Not exactly summer picnic weather. Shepherds never had an easy life. The average salary of a shepherd – while in that day there wasn’t any – and I’ll get to that – is today only $26,200.  That is less than half of the median household income. It is barely enough to cover housing and a little food. It is the definition of poverty.

I mentioned that shepherds in Jesus’ day did not really make a salary. They were typically elderly or younger family members who couldn’t be trusted in any other role. So they got to watch the sheep.

Cold, in poverty, unwanted and thought useless. They are who we celebrate today. We celebrate them because they were the first to see and get the message. They were the first to tell of it, to spread the Good News. God has entered the world to bring to fulfillment what He spoke through Jeremiah: I will turn their mourning into joy. I will comfort them and exchange their sorrow for rejoicing.

This has been a strange Advent and Christmas season for me. A movie, a song – I’d find myself getting emotional. This holds a deeper meaning and lesson. God was teaching me a lesson.

We must never let the cold of the world, the constant just above freezing forty-two degree spiritual environment around us shut down the warmth of our hearts. If the cold of the world has gotten to us – today we must recognize and acknowledge that God’s got it. He will not let the cold win.

Are we impoverished and weakened, poor for want of physical, spiritual, or intellectual gifts? Today we must recognize and acknowledge that God’s got it. He will not let poverty win.

Are we unwanted, estranged, facing deep loneliness, rarely thought of, shuffled into the elderly corner or to the kid’s table? Today we must recognize and acknowledge that God’s got it. He will not let separation win.

We long for so many gifts, as did the shepherds on that hill.  We long as individuals, a community and neighborhood, and as Church. Suddenly, life was different and it IS different now because God’s promise is fulfilled- He has us.


Do not be afraid. Listen. I bring you news of great joy.

Twelve words in three sentences. With those words, the angel who was anointed to first deliver the Gospel message, announced it to the shepherds. Jesus, the Christ, the Messiah, Immanuel had arrived. The Word made flesh had come. God is among us. You are going to have joy!

We often get so caught up in our dramas, and even in church bureaucracy, that we miss the essential and constant message given to us this night. The Good News of great joy!

Jesus came to bring good news. His news takes away all that is scary, all that is condemning, and that which rises to bring us down by accusation. His news is strong enough to overcome any negativity in our lives. He literally set aside His glory and crown in that impoverished stable to bring us victory, a crown, a trophy we can proudly display.

His victory – our salvation.

His crown – given us as the crown of eternal life.

Our trophy – new lives, changed lives, un-fearing, brave lives of witness and proclamation wherein we say with the angel, to all who will hear us, Do not be afraid. Listen. I bring you news of great joy.

Do not be fooled by this gentle sight – for within it is symbolized Jesus, the great warrior King who comes toward us. He came to do war with fear, condemnation, and accusation. He came not to war with us, but rather to deliver us from the war the world makes. He came toward us and invites us to stand with Him as our great shield. Behind His shield we go forward with twelve words in three sentences, saying to all who will hear us: Do not be afraid. Listen. I bring you news of great joy.

We have God’s great Good News. Good news of great joy. How wonderful, how blessed is this night. Do not be afraid. Listen. I bring you news of great joy.

A name which means “God-is-with-us.”

 

Indeed, God is with us. He is here, in the person of Jesus. The perfect gift.

 

Did you catch all the names in the genealogy of Jesus? These were the great men and women of faith history through whose line Jesus inherited the earthly kingship of Israel.  He, who was King from the very beginning and before time, would now take His throne on earth. From that throne He would deliver us.

 

Those men and women of faith history were indeed great. Some were great from birth, some had greatness cast upon them when they received God’s call. Yet each was flawed, imperfect. They fell, lost faith, did wrong, messed up, didn’t follow through. None of them could save us, they could not even deliver themselves from sin. They were like beautifully wrapped presents but broken inside. Their greatness was found in the God ordained messages they delivered. How, despite brokenness and flaws, they pointed ever forward and called their fellow Israelites to right relationship with God.

 

Did people listen? Not always. But the message was clear, be faithful, live right with God, and prepare for the coming Christ, the Messiah, Immanuel. For He is coming to live with us. He is immanent. In Him we will be saved.

 

As we gather at this vigil time, we are called to recollect history and to plainly see the difference Jesus’ coming made. For out of this genealogy, this long line of great, yet flawed people, would come the One who is, was, and always will be great – and flawless, the perfect present. His flawlessness accomplished deliverance, salvation, and freedom. His flawlessness allows us the opportunity to accept His perfect gift, what He has done for us. His flawlessness, His perfect gift, is available to each of us for the price of YES.

 

In the history of a flawed and broken world, from a line of flawed and imperfect people, God broke into the world. While the ancients could do nothing but point to the future, Jesus came to deliver the future. That is why we rejoice today. It is why we, like Joseph, are called to wake up and see Jesus, our gift, free of flaws and offering us the chance. Say yes – take the present, unwrap it, and live with and in Jesus – God-with-us.

This week’s memory verse: For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. — John 3:16

  • 12/23 – Romans 12:6
  • 12/24 – 1 Timothy 6:18-19
  • 12/25 – James 1:17
  • 12/26 – Matthew 6:33
  • 12/27 – 1 John 2:16
  • 12/28 – 2 Corinthians 9:10-11
  • 12/29 – Esther 9:22

Pray the week: Lord Jesus, grant me the grace to package peace, joy, and hope together in love and to share them with all I encounter with real result.

Love filled
results.

Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.

We have focused on being checked in and its results from three perspectives. Those are: The peace that comes from being prepared, ready and refusing to give up; Stepping out into the world to announce the kingdom, to proclaim a renewed and joyful life in Jesus. Plugged in people have God’s true joy, a joy that doesn’t leave us; and Hope lived everyday, in every moment – Jesus is near! Peace, joy, and hope, three hallmarks of being checked-in with Jesus.

Peace, joy, and hope – wonderful gifts that are essential elements of our checked-in lives, essential elements of the one thing that wraps them all up together – love.

As we prepare to enter into the Season of Christmas, we are called to take the gifts of peace, joy, and hope and to wrap them together in love and deliver them to the world. This is our charge from Jesus, to take what most consider conceptual and out-of-reach and make it real. More than make it real, show it forth, we are to use God’s grace to get results with those gifts.

Getting real results, love filled results – that is the message of today’s Gospel, that is the message of Jesus first coming, and His anticipated return.

An angel visits Mary, ensconced in her home. She is asked to literally give up everything for love, for the love necessary to bring a child into the world. She is asked to show forth love, and to get real results with her love. Showing forth that love would not gain Mary any love. Her espoused was ready to abandon her. Her community rejected her. Making love real meant ridicule and abandon, yet Mary did it and topped it off with service to her cousin Elizabeth in her need. Mary wrapped the peace of God, joy and hope, in love, stayed checked-in. She made it real to her expected Son and her cousin.

We are recipients of Jesus’ showing forth the fullness of God’s love, and its reality. The results are within us – our sins washed away, our hearts and minds fed by His word, and ready to receive Him. We march forth into the world like Mary with a gift wrapped in love, not to be stored under a tree or on a shelf. Let us never shy away from opening God’s gifts of peace, joy, and hope in love, putting them to work for real love filled results.

The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Two weeks ago we discussed our call to stand up, to hold our heads high for the Day of the Lord, our hearts focused on plugging in and being ready, rather than on giving up and checking out. Last week we took that message a step further. When we are plugged in and prepared we are able to step out into the world announce the kingdom, calling sinners to a renewed and joyful life. Plugged in people have God’s true joy, a joy that doesn’t leave us.

The faithful, truly plugged in and ready for the Lord’s return, filled with joy, have a unique gift. It is the gift of hope bringing awareness.

Awareness is a unique gift. It is a gift that implies knowledge and insight giving us hope. Look at the awareness and hope evident in today’s readings and Gospel.

Zephaniah was a prophet living in very dark times. Most of his message was dark. People had closed their hearts and minds to an awareness of God. They unplugged, and lived in unjust and abusive times. They pursued what they thought would buy them happiness. Zephaniah spoke of devastation and death, Divine judgment on the “day of the Lord.” Yet, in his plugged-in-ness, Zephaniah stayed aware – This is not the real end. He acclaims with great hope: Shout for joy, O daughter Zion! Sing joyfully, O Israel! Be glad and exult, the King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst, you have no further misfortune to fear.

Similarly, St. Paul reminds us that our awareness leads to the same joy and that joy provides us with steadfast hope. He says: Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice! The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all.

John went out with joy and hope. Because of that, he did amazing things. He provided sinners with a taste of that hope and joy, the removal of anxiety, freedom from desolation in promise of the Messiah Who was on the horizon.

The promise of Jesus is on the horizon. Set aside anxiety. See the peace and hope that is ours, not just on Sunday, or in Advent, or in the coming of Christmas, but everyday, every moment. Let us stay hopefully aware, on top of Jesus’ closeness. He is near!

Advent

  • December 2: 1st Sunday of Advent. Holy Mass at 9:30am and 11:30am. 
  • December 9: 2nd Sunday of Advent. Holy Mass at 9:30am and 11:30am. 
  • December 16: 3rd Sunday of Advent. Holy Mass with Advent Penitential Service at 10:30am followed by Youth Musical Presentation and Parish Vigil Dinner.
  • December 23: 4th Sunday of Advent. Holy Mass at 9:30am and 11:30am. Greening of the Church between Holy Masses.

Christmas Season

  • December 24: Vigil of the Nativity with Holy Mass at 4pm.
  • December 25: Solemnity of the Nativity. Holy Mass at Midnight and 10am.
  • December 26: Feast – St. Stephen, Proto-Martyr.
  • December 27: Feast – St. John, Apostle & Evangelist. Holy Mass at 7pm with Blessing of Wine.
  • December 28: Commemoration – Holy Innocents.
  • December 29: Feast of the Holy Family. Holy Mass at 10am.
  • December 30: Solemnity of the Humble Shepherds. Holy Mass at 9:30 and 11:30am.
  • January 1: Solemnity of the Circumcision. Holy Mass at 10am.
  • January 2: Solemnity of the Holy Name (Parish patronal feast), Holy Mass at 7pm.
  • January 6: Epiphany of our Lord. Holy Mass with blessing of chalk, charcoal, and incense at 9:30 and 11:30am.
  • January 13: Solemnity of the Baptism of the Lord. Holy Mass at 9:30 and 11:30am.