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.

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.

A Christmas prayer and poem for you

For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given. —Isaiah 9:5

Lord Jesus, as we gaze upon You, sleeping peacefully in the manger, we feel a deep peace radiate from You. A holy calm fills our hearts. You have kept Your promise, You are here, with us now.

Lord Jesus, you were not afraid to come to us; help us to be not afraid in coming to You. Give us Your deep inner peace that we might impart joy, hope, and courage to all we encounter. Open our hearts to see You more clearly, receive You more deeply, and follow You more willingly. Increase our capacity to give and receive Your love. May this Christmas Day and Season warm our hearts all year.

Untitled by Cyprian Kamil Norwid

Jest w moim kraju zwyczaj,

że w dzień wigilijny,

przy wejściu pierwszej gwiazdy

wieczornej na niebie,

ludzie gniazda wspólnego

łamią chleb biblijny,

najtkliwsze przekazując uczucia

w tym chlebie.

It is the custom in my country,

that on Christmas Eve,

at the first star’s appearance

in the eveing sky,

people as one

break biblical bread,

and with great love share all they feel

in this bread.

Special Note – Events and Times for Sunday, December 16th

Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out – Acts 3:19

Next Sunday, December 16th, we observe the Third Sunday of Advent, the lighting of the Third Advent Candle. On this Sunday we traditionally add to our Advent preparations during Holy Mass with a special Advent Penitential Service.

Proper Advent preparation requires that we free ourselves of sin. This is our opportunity. In this special preparatory moment we are better able to examine our conscience and put forth our best effort to make things right with God and our neighbor. These special penitential services occur only twice a year – so it is vitally important that we attend, participate, and celebrate together.

Following Holy Mass we will take time to enjoy fellowship, our Youth Christmas presentation, and join in preparing all those wonderful meatless dishes we will share with each other at our Vigil Dinner starting at 11:30am.

To allow sufficient time for our Penitential Service, Holy Mass, our Youth Presentation, and our Vigil Dinner we will begin at 8:45am with the lighting of the Advent Wreath immediately followed by our Penitential Service, receipt of the Sacrament of Penance, and Holy Mass. We are pleased to have Fr. Rafał Dadiełło from Holy Spirit Parish in Little Falls join us to administer the Sacrament of Penance and to offer Holy Mass.

St. Paul reminds us: All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation2 Corinthians 5:18. God gave His Holy Church the power to loose us of our sins -– come and be made free once again in the love of God who has reconciled all things to Himself in Christ Jesus. Then free, join in celebrating the coming season with each other.