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.

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.

This week’s memory verse: May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. — Romans 15:13

  • 12/9 – Romans 12:12
  • 12/10 – Philippians 4:4
  • 12/11 – Psalm 28:7
  • 12/12 – Psalm 100:2
  • 12/13 – Nehemiah 8:10
  • 12/14 – 1 Thessalonians 5:16
  • 12/15 – Psalm 5:11

Pray the week: Lord Jesus, grant me Your reinforcing joy so I may sing out of Your return in gladness.

Checked in and
joyful.

And this is my prayer: that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value, so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.

Last week, 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.

If indeed we plugged in and walked in the path of readiness, something wonderful happened. I know I felt it.

It was a long week for me. I left on Tuesday morning for San Diego. Everyone encouraged me, Oh, you’ll have fun, its sunny and warm. Well after about six hours of traveling, I arrived to a setting sun. Not as warm as I expected, but I packed wisely, just in case. Two days of rain and flooding later, it got sunny and warm, just as I entered the airport for the trip home on Friday.

I knew I’d be home late – actually early Saturday morning. I’d be exhausted. As you might imagine, traveling is no joy in this day and age. My trip had its share of what normally would be annoyances. There were a few additional things that go thrown on my plate mid-week as well. But something was different. Expecting Jesus really changed my days and turned annoyances into moments of prayer. Jesus turned times of dread into opportunities. I am so thankful.

Dreading being alone, eating alone, away from friends and family – a brother priest happened to be in the same city at the same time. Neither of us had to be alone. The person snoring on the plane, directly across the aisle from me, for three hours? I had the chance to pray for that person, for healing and better health. There were other moments like that too.

Like the Israelites returning to the Promised Land, we who are checked in and preparing are able to hold our heads high, to march forward with joy knowing the Lord has us in the palm of His hand; is protecting and guiding us.

Like John the Baptist, we are taking charge and doing God’s work with joy. In many ways we announce the kingdom, call sinners to a renewed and joyful life, and heal hurt. Even when the work is hard, and we are down to our last few locusts for dinner, the light of true joy doesn’t leave us.

I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

I wonder if the translators got it wrong? I wonder if I can say “got” in that sentence? Paul, writing to the Philippians, says he is moving toward the goal. A grammar study would tell us that “to” and “toward” are two different things. There is a key distinction. As we enter into Advent and soon the Christmas season, this is a vital distinction. Are we moving toward or to Jesus? In any sentence, “towards” means “in the direction of that person or thing”. When we use “toward,” we are not describing a destination; the destination is without certainty. Toward only describes a general direction. However, when to say “to” we have defined the destination of our journey. While our exact way of getting to that destination remains un-described, we have set our goal with certainty. We work to get to it. We focus on it. We say with confidence, that is exactly where I am going. Advent is a call to prepare for the journey to the returning and victorious Christ. We are to spend this time getting ready, fortifying ourselves for His return so we can meet Him “standing erect with our heads held high.” We are called to set our destination, and retranslate Paul’s words – I am moving to the goal, to the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. That is where I want to be. We may feel fine walking toward Jesus. We might get lucky and trip into the manger at Christmas. The problem with a lack of certainty on our part is that we may miss the mark and end up separated, unable to get to our goal. Getting close, being in the neighborhood, is not enough for Jesus. He wants more. The four weeks of Advent lead to the forty days of Christmas. Time is short. Let us then set the goal, let us be dedicated and focused on the place we need to get to. Let us walk straight to a kingdom defined life. That is the goal, the prize.

December, the quick journey through Advent to the forty day season of Christmas. We discuss the journey, as you see above. Are we heading in God’s general direction, or are we going straight to Him? It makes a difference. We are so excited about these seasons, their quiet times and their activities. Join us for our meatless vigil dinner on December 16th. Listen to what our youth have prepared. Join in and ‘green the church’ on December 23rd.

Looking for real Midnight Holy Mass? Only here in Schenectady! Blessing of wine on the Feast of St. John, Apostle and Evangelist – yes, that too.

We wish you all the many and varied blessings of these seasons as we expectantly move to Jesus’ return.

Check out all this and more in our December 2018 Newsletter.

This week’s memory verse: Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. — 1 Corinthians 16:13

  • 12/2 – Philippians 4:1
  • 12/3 – Ephesians 6:11
  • 12/4 – Galatians 5:1
  • 12/5 – Joshua 1:9
  • 12/6 – 2 Corinthians 1:24
  • 12/7 – James 5:8
  • 12/8 – Hebrews 6:11

Pray the week: Lord Jesus, grant that I may always be found standing, building up the Church, and holding my head high for Your return.

Check out or
Stand up?

But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.

St. Paul had arrived at Thessalonica in the winter of 49, around this time of year. Paul had just struggled mightily in Philippi. His rights as a citizen were violated and he was mistreated and now ended up in Thessalonica.

Unfortunately, Paul did not have it much better in Thessalonica. He was forced to leave in the face of severe opposition. Yet his time there was blessed. He founded a fledging Church. On the down side, he didn’t have time to fully teach the members of this young Church. After leaving, and meeting Timothy in Athens, he sent Timothy back for a check-in visit.

The letter to the Thessalonians, authored in about 51, two years after he had to leave, was intended to offer support and learning to this young Church, and to reassure it in the essentials of the faith.

A vital, moment in a young (or even not so young) life comes when we are confronted with that life altering choice. Do I turn left or right? Do I go forward or turn back? Do I check out and slink away, or do I stand up with my head held high? Jesus put that choice to us. Paul put it to Thessalonica. We are asked in our youth, and we are asked today – How will we decide?

Today we enter Advent, the season of waiting, preparation, and expectation. Jesus reminds us of what we are waiting for, preparing for, and expecting. It is His return. Will I be ready to stand up and raise my head at His return? Will I be prepared? Am I even expecting Him or have I checked out?

Paul taught the young Church at Thessalonica and us today about those choices. They are before us because Jesus promised His return in glory. The angels on the Mount of the Ascension attested to it: “Galileans, why are you standing there looking up at the sky? This Jesus, who was taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way that you saw him go to heaven.”

So what are we to do, we in our youth and our not so youth? The Church at Thessalonica took Paul’s advice. They did what was necessary. They lived in constant and urgent expectation. They not only lived it, but also shared expectation so others might be saved. Time to stand up and do likewise.