December 17, 2011 – It’s Almost Here! … Or Over!

Well once again this week the holidays have altered my blogging schedule.  I’m running later this week because last night was dedicated to putting up our Christmas tree and decorations, so my apologies to my 3 or 4 fans out there.  I think all of us can claim that even though for the most part we look forward to the holiday season and the good feelings it can bring, that there is also a part of us that is glad when the holidays are over.  It may be because there was a tragedy that happened around this time of year and those bad memories come rushing back, such as unfortunately this past week when 18 year old Rebecca Young of Chester was killed in an auto accident returning from SWIC.  It may be because for one reason or another we won’t be able to be with our family for the holidays.  And for many of us the holiday season may seem to be becoming more of an inconvenience and a reason to get stressed out rather than what it should be – a celebration of one of the great events in history and a time to enjoy each other’s company.  In fact just the other day in Wal-Mart I overheard a conversation where someone was saying how they used to enjoy the holidays so much but with the shopping and all the other hustle and bustle they have gotten to the point where they are glad when the holidays are over.

The fact that you can go all over the internet and find tips for easing the stress of the holidays is proof that the enjoyment and focus of the holidays has somehow become lost.  So what can we, especially us Christians do to reverse this trend and to reclaim our Christmas spirit?  One article I read suggested that we put away our electronic devices for a while, our i-pods, computers, video games, and spend that time in quiet reflection.  OK, moving on then.  Actually, I think we can achieve what the author intends by just getting away from the business of everything for a few minutes and spend time in prayer or reflection.  In fact, on the homepage of our website there is a link to daily reflections for Advent.

Secondly, I think we need to re-emphasize to ourselves and to others that this is the CHRISTMAS season that is at our doorstep, not just the holiday season.  And when Christmas Day is over, the holiday celebration does not end there.  We actually celebrate the Christmas season as a church until the Baptism of the Lord.  In this fashion we don’t have to feel like that we wore the soles off our shoes trying to get everything done just to see it come and pass by in a single day.  We can celebrate Christmas past December 25th even though the radio stations will stop playing Christmas music and people will start taking their decorations down.  The entire Christmas season is a time to rejoice and celebrate.

Finally, we need to remember that the slogan “Jesus is the reason for the season” is not just a nice slogan to remember.  It should tell us where the true focus of our energies should be during the holidays, despite all of the other distractions that come with this time of the year.  It should tell us that in all of our preparations for our celebrations – the shopping, the baking, the eating and drinking, etc., that our preparations should include getting ready to mark the Incarnation – the event when the “word became flesh”, when God appeared in our world in human form as someone “fully divine and fully human”.  We have already mentioned some ways in which we can do this.  Another way is by attending our penance service on Monday evening.  It give us a chance to not only participate in the sacrament of “cleansing”, but allows us to think about what we can try to improve on in the coming year.

As Christians, we have a duty to spread God’s message to others, and to invite those back who for one reason or another may have strayed away from their religion.  Many parishes and other Catholic organizations use this time of year to encourage those people to “Come Home for Christmas”.  There may be questions that those who have not practiced their Catholic faith for some time  have that we are unable to answer, or we may have our own questions.  The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has put a nice resource on their website called “Rediscovering the Faith” that provides some answers to these questions.  Here is the link to te webpage:

www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/how-we-teach/new-evangelization/outreach-and-ministry/rediscovering-the-faith.cfm

We also have the “fanning the flame” program starting next month which will give us the opportunity to study many aspects of the Catholic faith using the U.S. Catechism for Adults as a guide.  You can go to our homepage on the website and get the link to the diocesan website for “fanning the flame”.  I will also be putting more information on our website in the next week. 

We have heard a lot through the media about different organizations removing the word “Christmas” and replacing it with the word “holiday” when it comes to referring to trees and other public displays of the season.  Should we as Christians be offended by this?  Is our identity being stripped away somehow?  Cardinal George comments on the subject in the following video:

I also want to pass along my compliments to our school children and faculty on a job well done at their Christmas program this past Tuesday night.  I will be working the next few days on putting all of the video on our website.  In the meantime, you can enjoy the always entertaining pre-school portion of the program in the video below:

Well next week I will continue a long-standing Christmas tradition (OK, it will be the third year, humor me here).  I will reveal my Christmas wish list – what I would give if i had the power to give anything I wanted to whoever I wanated.  In the meantime, let us enjoy what the season brings.  Have a great week.  Peace.

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