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Fr. Ron's Blog

A Christmas Message From the Pastor

In this time of national anxiety and division, vaccinated/ unvaccinated, masked/unmasked, and world suffering and disruption, when omicron seems to be putting a pall over previously upbeat holiday plans, I repeat a Christmas column I wrote several years ago. At one time, the Advent Little Blue Book did a reflection on the word "merry." I quote. "Merry did not originally convey a sense of jolly, mirthful. It meant something more along the lines of 'blessed, peaceful'-a deep inner joy rather than revelry. One gets a sense of its original meaning in the well-known carol, God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen. As can be seen from the comma, the word is not used to describe jolly gentlemen, but rather a blessing from God invoked upon them."

I wrote a homily several years ago, based on that hymn. Believing the message is even more important now, I offer it again.

God rest you merry gentlemen let nothing you dismay;
Remember Christ our Savior was born on Christmas Day;
To save us all from Satan's power
when we were gone astray;
0 tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy
0 tidings of comfort and joy

In 18th Century England, with its orphanages, its poor houses, its debtor prisons, all of the evils of a society embodied in the cold-heartedness of Ebenezer Scrooge, the word "merry" meant not an easy, almost superficial happiness, it meant blessed. To wish someone a Merry Christmas lifted them from the drudgery of life, from the struggles, the disappointments, the pain, to the realms of the sacred. A Merry Christmas meant a Christmas blessed by God. So, on this December 25th, 2021, as we are about to enter the third year of the pandemic, God rest to you, blessed gentlemen and gentlewomen, let nothing dismay you, for Jesus Christ is born-oh tidings of comfort and joy-oh tidings of comfort and joy.

Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, God with us, is the final word of God, spoken to a fearful, anxious, sinful humankind. And this promise: "I am with you," can dispel fear, instill hope, stoke courage and fan into flame a flickering, wavering faith. This "I am with you" enabled Abram, the childless nomad to become Abraham, the father of nations. This "I am with you" gave Moses, a murderer on the run, the courage to return to Egypt to lead his people to freedom. This "I am with you" strengthened David to stand before the giant with slingshot and stone. This "I am with you" comforted a people living in the anxiety of exile and strengthened them for the challenges of return and rebuilding. The promise of "I am with you" finally took flesh in Jesus Christ, the Emmanuel, the God-with-us forever.

Generations have followed generations; yet God-with-us lives. Nations have risen and fallen, yet God-with-us lives. Kings and presidents, dictators and tyrants have come and gone, yet God-with-us lives.

God-with-us lives,
As a light to our path,
As a joy for our childhood,
As a guide for our youth,
As an inspiration for the mature,
As a comfort for the aged.

God-with-us lives,
As food for the hungry, As water for the thirsty,
As rest for the weary, As light for the lost,
As salvation for the sinner.
And God-with-us lives, Jesus, the Emmanuel.
The God-with-us lives at every juncture of our lives.

When fear threatens to overwhelm us, God-with-us lives.
When doubts diminish our hope, God-with-us lives.
When confusion clouds our vision, God-with-us lives.
When the daily challenge of living becomes a burden, God-with-us lives.
When friends are few but enemies abound, God-with-us lives.
When sickness comes and the body that seemed so reliable for so long becomes unreliable, God-with-us lives.
When death surrounds us and our limited vision does not allow us the security to see beyond its passage, God-with-us lives.

Throughout our lives, in good times and in bad, God-with-us is the love song that never ceases to be sung; it is the oracle of salvation that lifts our minds and spirits; it is the word that creates us, forgives us, heals us, frees us. It is the word that keeps us whole and holy until we behold Him face to face. This Jesus, this God-with-us, born for us today.

To know Him is to love Him. To love Him is to accept Him. And, to accept Him means eternal life. Today, welcome Him again.

Yes-God rest to you, blessed gentlemen and gentlewomen. Let nothing dismay you. Jesus Christ is born for you.

"Fear not, then, "said the angel, "let nothing you affright, This day is born a Savior of Virgin pure and bright.
To free all those who trust in Him from Satan's power and might."
0 tidings of comfort and joy comfort and joy;
0 tidings of comfort and joy.

Peace and all Good and MERRY Christmas,
Fr. Ron



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