Archive for the ‘Lessons and Carols’ Category

It’s Christmas Still!

Thursday, January 3rd, 2019

Lessons and Carols

2018

What an incredible story! Yes, we have all just heard an incredible story unfold before us. Many thousands of years ago, the Lord God promised his people a Savior. And he delivered on his words in his own time- more than a thousand years from the time of that promise. But he did it, he delivered. He sent His only son to become one of us and show us the way. We call it the Incarnation.
And the Incarnation is what is truly unique about Christianity. You see, the Son of God became intimate with our human nature- He was born like one of us; and he lived as one of us, worked as one of us, suffered like one of us, and died like one of us. But then, he rose from the dead, showed himself to over 500 people and promised all of us the same resurrected life forever with him if we follow after him.
And so, we have testimonies- eye witness testimonies- and the Gospels that tell and validate that story, incredible as it may seem. Our God is not some distant, transcendent God who we cannot approach; rather, our God has elected to become one of us, and yet maintain his divinity in some mysterious way that we are incapable of understanding. But he did it, and the proof is in the story we have just heard.
We should be absolutely exuberant, bursting with joy, and tremendously thankful for all of that. Because the real meaning of life has been laid out before us- everlasting life with our creator, with Jesus Christ and his Father.
And indeed, that is what Christmas is all about. Christmas is all about Christ. Because of Christ, we have been saved, and we have been shown the way.
Now two thousand years have passed since the events in the nativity story. The secular world, led by the powers of darkness, first introduced doubt, skepticism, and erroneous teaching to try to derail the truth about Christ and the joy that it brings. And so we have all these splinter religions- like those who believe Jesus is divine but not human; and those who believe he was human but not divine; and those who warped his teaching about our great sacrament of the Eucharist, which Jesus left us to maintain his presence with us for all time. Many of their followers are well meaning but misguided folk who hunger for but are ignorant of the whole truth.
The division among the people of God is sad indeed. It is our duty to help them with the truth by displaying our faith and knowledge of the truth.
And yet, even sadder are the later attacks on Christianity- attacks by a secular society. Many in our modern society don’t believe in God at all; or if they do, they believe that any belief in a God is as valid as any other belief. Yes, our Christian roots are being undermined by secular society’s politically correct morphing of Christmas into the Holiday Season. The forces of darkness are hell bent on making the “Spirit of Christmas” something other then what Christmas is all about. I am here to tell you that our Trees and decorations and gifts and cards, and everything else we do this time of the year, are all about Christmas, and the joy that the Incarnation brings. They are not about the “Holiday” season.
Now don’t get me wrong. God bless those folks who want to celebrate Hanukah or Kwanza, or some other “Holiday” at this time of the year every year. That’s their choice; but realistically, they are a minority riding the coattails of Western societies roots in the Christian feast of Christmas.
We Christians celebrate what Christmas is really all about- that is, to relive the joy over what Christ’s coming into the world 2000 years ago brought us. When we give each other gifts, we do so because we realize that Christ gave freely, unselfishly to all of us. And our gift is a memorial of the gift of everlasting life that Christ has brought us. Our fleeting happiness over the gifts we receive is symbolic of the joy that we should all realize about our prospect for the gift of everlasting life in heaven that Jesus gave us. It will bring Joy that will last forever and ever. And not only that, it is our duty and obligation to infect the rest of society with our Christian joy. We are here to evangelize secular society by proclaiming the truth of Christmas.
I hope that all of you enjoyed the wonderful music and spiritual lessons we presented tonight. If you did, join me in proclaiming the Christian message to the world because the Christmas season lasts from Christmas until the Baptism of the Lord on January 9th.So enjoy the Epiphany this weekend, which commemorates the visit by the Three Magi on January 6th.
Yes, we are still in the Christmas Season. Merry Christmas to all!

Finding Time for Christ’s Coming

Thursday, December 10th, 2015

Advent Reflection Service

Dc. Larry Brockman

 

It started way before Thanksgiving this year!  My neighbor put up his lights a week before Thanksgiving;  and the stores started pushing “Pre-Black Friday” sales, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Green Monday- you name it.  Every year it starts earlier and earlier, the Frenzy that has become “The Holidays”.

But you know what? We used to call it the Christmas Season, because as Christians say “Jesus is the reason for the season”.  Nowt it seems that Jesus’ coming has been hijacked.   Instead, we celebrate a secular “Holiday Season” where buying lots of stuff and secular joy take precedence.  Even Santa says “Happy Holidays” and not Merry Christmas.  At one local hospital, there’s a beautiful “Holiday Tree” in the lobby-   Yep, they call it a holiday tree, not a Christmas Tree.  And there’s a table with Hanukah Candles and Kwanzaa candles on it right next to the tree, but there’s no Advent Wreath there.  Boy, have they got their priorities wrong- political correctness trumps Christmas Joy.

And so tonight, we want to set the priorities straight.  That Jesus is the reason for the season and talk about why we spend the 4 weeks of Advent getting ready for Christmas.  It’s not because we need the time for cards and cooking and buying gifts; and not to give time for all the parties and get-togethers; but rather, we need the 4 weeks to get ready for the coming of Christ. In fact, we are going to consider a few things that were highlighted by the readings  To help us to see how God intends for us to get ready for His coming.

Imagine for a moment what it must have been like in Ahaz’s time in the setting of our first reading, thousands of years ago.  King Ahaz was content with life and had made political deals that preserved his country, Judah.  But he made those deals at the expense of keeping the Faith.  Despite many warnings from the prophets of his time, Ahaz and the people were ignoring God’s law and his commandments.  Ahaz wasn’t looking for a sign- he was content.

Isn’t the same thing happening today?   A lot of people don’t even call it Christmas any more, as we just mentioned.  It’s the Holidays for these people.  And aren’t most of us putting our spiritual preparation to the side so we can get all the other things done; all the secular things done, that we are expected to do?  Indeed, we do need time for our spiritual preparation- that’s the first message, that’s the first priority.

In the second reading, we are told to rejoice over the coming of the King- a King who will exact “Judgment and Justice”.  Is that what we are looking for, judgment and justice?  Or are we looking at the long list of gifts on our shopping lists; and worried about how we are going to pay all the bills.  Indeed, our spiritual preparation demands that we look for a different kind of longing.  Not a longing for “happiness” that is a short term high based on things and fleeting pleasures; but rather a long term joy, a joy inside that is immune to the trials and tribulations of life.

In fact, some of the things that we should be looking for are listed in the third reading:  “A spirit of wisdom and understanding;  a spirit of counsel and strength, and a spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord.”  That’s what our spiritual preparation should lead us to seek; qualities that will last in the long term in our spiritual lives-  Spiritual Gifts that will last forever.

And if you seek out and nurture those spiritual gifts; those abilities to understand and discern, to cut through the chaff that the devil throws at us through secular society; then you will recognize the real savior of the world at his coming.  And not only that, you will welcome him with joy.  You will recognize that God so loved us that he sent his only Son, born of a woman, to dwell amongst us and show us the way; and that this God-become-man lived and ate and worked amongst us, living as all of us do, living a humble and regular life for 30 of his 33 years.

That’s what the Nativity Stories we read really tell us.  That Jesus was of humble origins; that he lived an ordinary, not privileged life; and that he was obedient to his earthly parents and heavenly Father; and that he ate, slept, worked, and related socially to his family and friends, just like we do; yet he did all of that without sin.

All of us have the same calling- to live like Jesus did.  That’s the essence of the good news- the Gospel.  And woven into these Nativity stories are the stories of Mary and the Shepherds-  Mary, who is the example of how all of us are to live life;  Mary, who was fully human, yet never sinned;  Mary who accepted God’s will for her, despite the mental and physical pain and anguish that accompanied it; and  Mary who celebrated the joy of her first-born son’s coming.  Are we all ready for that?  Are we prepared to accept God’s way and live it, relishing the joyful moments of life; yet accepting the trials with dignity and grace?

Likewise the shepherd’s story is insightful.  These humble, simple people of the time accepted the story of Jesus at the word of the Angels.  They came, they worshiped, and they left.  They did not understand.  There are things we will never be capable of understanding.  But what was revealed to them, they accepted on Faith.  That is our challenge as well, to accept that Jesus is God become man, that he is our savior and that he promised all who believe and follow him, eternal life in heaven with his Father.

And then there is the last reading, the one about the Word of God.  It summarizes what we believe about the relationship between the Father and the Son and the doctrine we call the “Incarnation”.  The Incarnation is at the core of what makes us Christian because it says that Jesus is both fully human and fully divine.

That’s something all of us can relate to, that Jesus humbled himself by coming down and becoming intimate with us.  He is not some distant, unapproachable God.  God is with us (Emmanuel)- and we take him in the Eucharist every week.  If we think about that in our spiritual preparation, we cannot help but feel the joy.  It is the New Covenant joy that Jesus brings- through his sacrifice of self, He saves us and offers us everlasting life.  That is what the joy of Christmas is all about- that believers will live forever in peace and joy.

The devil has attacked the Incarnation in many and varied ways-   And the result has been the emergence of sects- Moslems, Jehovah Witnesses, Mormons, and other religions that believe in one God, but sadly, don’t believe in the Divinity of Jesus Christ or the Trinity.  It is easy to be misled by people from these other faiths.  Don’t let that happen to you.  Know your faith and be zealous in its defense.

Indeed, Jesus is coming soon.  He comes symbolically every year as baby Jesus.  We celebrate the joy that God’s Incarnation and New Covenant brings on that day.  But Advent also reminds us of another coming- the second Coming of Christ.  All of us will experience that coming as well when we die.  Will we be ready for that?  Will we welcome the second coming of Jesus with joy?  Indeed we will- if we are ready.  So use Advent wisely, get ready spiritually for the coming of Christ!  It could happen at any time.

Advent is Like Being in Prison

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

Advent Reflection Service

Dc. Larry Brockman

Expectation!  Advent is the 4 week long season of joyful expectation before Christmas.  So, the question is, what are we joyfully expecting?  What are you all charged up and waiting for in these four weeks?

Are you waiting for the arrival of a relative, perhaps Mom and Dad from Chicago or some other distant place, for a Christmas and New Year’s visit?  Perhaps you’re waiting on your son or daughter coming home from College?  Maybe it’s the latest doll or lego toy set or video game you’re expecting under the tree; or a new IPAD; or a new dress; or some designer Jeans?

But as nice as all of these things may be for us to expect, Advent and Christmas are not about waiting for any of those things.  Tonight we have carefully selected readings to guide you through the real meaning of what we are waiting for.  They tell the story of the incarnation of Jesus Christ.  That means, they tell the story of how God sent His only son, Jesus, to become man, and take on our human nature.  And Jesus became intimate with us, living and experiencing life as we do.  He, though God, was not and is not, some distant, remote God who we cannot identify with.  No, He lived as one of us, suffered through life like all of us do; and died like all of us will.

Only he was resurrected, returned in glory, and promised all of us who believe the same glory.  That’s what is so special about Advent and Christmas- the realization that we will not just live this life; but, we will live forever with Jesus in glory if we believe and follow the Gospel message.

So, just what should our experience of this expectation for this four weeks of Advent really be then?

Some of you may be familiar with Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  He was a Lutheran minister imprisoned and executed by the Nazis because he spoke out, and acted on his convictions.  This is what Bonhoeffer once wrote about Advent while in prison:  “Life in a prison cell reminds me a great deal of Advent.  One waits and hopes and putters around; but in the end, what we do is of little consequence.  The door is shut and it can only be opened from the outside”.

Amazing, isn’t it, how clear things can be when we are forced to reflect on them.  Bonhoeffer had no choice- he was imprisoned.  He had the time, and he took it, to reflect.  Bonhoeffer recognized that while we live this life, it is like we are in prison.  We are imprisoned by our limitations- our body constrains us in many ways.  But our minds constrain us even more.  We are constrained from recognizing the magnitude, the complexity, and fullness of the love of God and what He has in store for those who love him. So, the question is, when, and if, the door opened to the Kingdom of God.  Will you be ready for it?

You and I are so fortunate that we have Advent every year to reflect on the meaning of Christmas and to get ready for the Coming of Christ.  The Christ child is one coming- the coming that brings us the hope of eternal life.  But the second coming of Christ is also heralded during Advent.  It is that coming that all of us simply must be prepared for.  And so, what really matters is whether or not you are ready when that door opens; and that coming will happen for each and every one of us.

We can hope for and kind of anticipate the joy of living in glory forever with Jesus.  We do that in joy every Christmas day with the celebration of Jesus’ birth.  That’s why we gather around with our families and celebrate at Christmas; and we share gifts with each other to show that we understand what God did for us- the fact that God shared such a very special gift with us, te gift of His son.  And so, we shower special gifts on others as God showered his gift on us.

But the cold, hard, fact is that we are imprisoned here until that door opens with the Second Coming.  And so Advent is really about reflecting on whether we are prepared for the Second coming of the Lord so we can benefit from the hope and the promise of everlasting life.

Just what is God asking us to do to get ready for that?  He is asking us to think about where we are going in our lives.  He wants us to find and root out the things that are hindering us from that goal; and then repent of anything that is holding us back before it is too late.  Repentance is what we are all called to do in this four weeks; repentance, a basic change in our lives.  So we can truly live to see the full glory promised us by the Lord.

And we need four weeks because we are always so busy- busy getting ready for the joy that only really comes if we repent.  Not only that, it is hard to face the reality of who we really are and change that.  The devil tries to mask, to shield, to hide us from facing that reality.  We need time to break through and think it through- all of us.

As you leave here tonight, take with you the great and unbounded joy that eternal life in the Kingdom is yours.  But also take comfort in the fact that God has given all of you time- time to repent and find your way to use this Advent season wisely; to get ready for the Lord’s coming.

The Greatest Gift

Wednesday, December 4th, 2013

Advent Reflection Service

Dc. Larry Brockman

 

There once was a little boy who lost his mother about this time of year, right before Christmas.  The father was very poor, and was distraught over the loss of his wife.  He didn’t know how he was going to care for his son and work to support the two of them as well.  A wealthy couple came to the father and offered to take the boy for him.  They promised to give the boy everything he wanted or needed.  The father went to his son, and said.  Son, these good people want you to go live with them.  They will give you everything you need.  There will be lots of gifts on Christmas, and you will never have to worry again about your well-being in this world.  But the little boy looked up at his father and said.  “I don’t want to go”.  The father asked why, and the boy responded:  “Because they can’t give me you”.   

We have just heard the story of the Incarnation in the readings.  God’s greatest gift to mankind is wrapped up in the Incarnation.  The Incarnation is how God sent His only Son, Jesus, into the world to live as one of us- God, become man, and as the Church teaches, that means Jesus is fully human and fully divine.  Jesus became the bridge between God and man.  He showed us the way as the Gospels describe.  He showed us how we could be human, and still pleasing to God. 

For Jesus, that meant seeking and finding God’s will for him.  And so, he suffered and died for us, because he talked about God in a different way.  He talked about God’s laws being written into our hearts, and He acted as he preached.  That was God’s will for him, to spread the good news of how God’s law could be written into our hearts and live that way.  People hated him for that- for not living in the ways of the world and the establishment; but rather, living according to the dictates of his conscience; according to the promptings of God’s spirit dwelling within him.   

And the establishment thought they had gotten rid of Jesus when they crucified him.  But they were wrong- because God raised Jesus from the dead, showing us the path to everlasting life.  And so, He became our bridge between time and eternity as well.   

Yes, Jesus is God’s greatest gift to man, and so, we celebrate His coming amongst us each Christmas by exchanging gifts, a symbol of the gift that we all received from God on that first Christmas.  God the Father gave us a gift from His heart, the gift of himself.  It was the kind of gift that the son in our story sought.  Because things, wealth, power, and comfort, as much of a blessing as these things can seem for us, they are not what give us lasting joy.  Happiness from these things is temporary, and it is an external happiness, not an internal one.   

At this time of year, when we gear up to get each other gifts   We need to consider the real meaning of Gifts and giving at Christmas.  There is much to be learned from our readings today about gifts.   

In our first reading, Bible scholars tell us that  Ahaz was quite content with his own situation at the time even though his people were complacent and gthey were thresatened by an invasion..  People were well off; and so, the Israeli Kingdom and it’s people were content with the world   And so, Ahaz is not asking for a gift, or a sign.  He is on a spiritual plateau, and is quite “happy” with it.  But God recognized that growth is necessary for all of us.  And so, he tried to wake Ahaz up because there is more to life than contentment in this world.  And so, God promises Ahaz the coming of the real Messiah.  Lesson 1 then is this:  If you are content with your life, what gift might God be trying to give you to shake you out of your contentment and motivate you to grow?   

In the second reading, we find that the long awaited coming of Jesus will occur at Bethlehem.  Bethlehem was a small, insignificant shepherd town at the time.  Certainly, Bethlehem was not the place that anyone expected the Messiah to come forward from at that time..  But God works in His own unique way.  Out of humble beginnings, the King of Heaven emerged.  So, lesson two might be this.  The most significant gift in our lives may come from the least expected source.  It is something that blossoms forth from the depths of our hearts under the inspiration of the Spirit.   

Then, Paul talks about the gift of faith, which leads us to apostleship.  Yes, our Faith is one of the most endearing gifts that we have.  Unlike many people born into this world, most of us didn’t have to struggle to find the Lord.  It was gifted to us by our parents when they brought us forward to be Baptized and promised to bring us up in the faith.  We were infused with the Holy Spirit and became members of the Church- the gift of Faith.   

Then came Mary, the mother of God, and the story of the Visitation.  Mary was gifted with a mission by God.  Mary takes the gift of her call and accepts it- accepting God’s will for her, sacrificing her own wants and desires to do God’s will for her.  This is another great lesson about God’s gift to us.  We are all called by God to do something;  it is written in our hearts and in our consciences.  And it calls out to us constantly like the voice of the angel to Mary.  The challenge is to accept that gift and do God’s will.   

The nativity story is next, along with the visit by the shepherds.  The long awaited promise of the coming of the Messiah is fulfilled.  It happens in the most humble of circumstances as predicted.  Most people of the time would have been horrified.  They would have thought- “This can’t be it, this can’t be the fulfillment of the covenant”.  But the shepherds show us another way.  They experience the glory of God and leave with a sense of joy.  The lesson in that for us is simple.  Were hear this story each year, and are called upon to be joyful people.  We are called upon to be joyful over God’s greatest gift, Jesus Christ, and what it all means for us who believe- everlasting life. 

But are we joyful?  Usually, life catches us up into the trap of worldly concerns.  And we don’t really appreciate the peace and joy that Christmas brings.  That’s because joy is a spiritual experience.  We need to take the time; make the time; this Advent and Christmas season to recognize God’s greatest gift and make it a priority to change our lives to capture the joy.   

The last reading is known as the Last Gospel.  It summarizes everything I’ve been talking about-  the story of God’s greatest gift to man.  And St. John summarizes the effect of that greatest gift this way.  That “Grace and Truth came through Jesus Christ”.  Grace and Truth.  These are the gifts, the lasting gifts that Jesus brought with him.  Grace is the presence of God within us that the Holy Spirit brings.  It is a gift; but Faith and acceptance of that Faith coupled with our resolve to do God’s will for us, these enable the graces that God offers us.   

Lastly, truth.  We all need the gift of Truth; the ability to discern what is true.  Jesus Christ brought the truth.  And this truth is different from the truth that the world proclaims.  The Church safeguards the truth through the Magisterium.  Truth is God’s revelation to us through Jesus Christ, the Bible; the saints; the popes, the doctors of the Church, and the great councils of the Church.  These have all helped to give us the fullness of truth.  Our Catechism is a testament to the truth that has been assembled from Jesus Christ.  Like the little boy in the story, the world cannot give us the Father.  Rather, we must seek the Father in our hearts. 

God gives us himself this Christmas.  He does that in his unique way.  He comes to us bringing us grace and truth to fill our hearts with joy- a joy that lasts forever. 

Joyful Expectation

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

 

Advent Reflection Service

Dc. Larry Brockman

Are you joyful!  You see, it’s Advent, the season when we are supposed to be in joyful expectation of the coming of Christ.  Or are you in panic to get everything done and don’t have time for the joy of the season?  Do you even have a spare moment to think about what it all means?  There are cards to do, parties to go to, gifts to buy, recitals to attend, lights and trees to put up, baking to be done, and on and on.  And these are all things that we need and even like to do.  But when you get right down to it, this season is supposed to be all about preparing for Christmas in joyful expectation.  We owe it to ourselves to seek out and find out what that it really means for us to be in joyful expectation and how the coming of the Christ child can change our lives.   

Tonight, we have tried to put aside all of the clutter of the season and focus on the story of the Incarnation.  For the last half hour, you have heard the story about the promise of a Messiah and how God fulfilled that promise.  Hopefully, we have your attention.  So let’s reflect on what we heard before we walk back out there into the secular world, and see if we can learn from it because all of us want the coming of Christ to bring us Joy, peace, and happiness rather than strife, exhaustion, disappointment, and debt.  And the whole reason for practicing religion is for us to better our relationship with God.   

The people of the Old Testament had been scattered to the East and the West.  They wanted to go home; they wanted to go back to Jerusalem.  They wanted their own Kingdom restored.  And they were looking for earthly prosperity.  They must have felt like most of us feel about our country today; we want a return to the good old days of prosperity.   

The Old Testament prophet in the first reading is giving them hope.  But it is not the kind of hope they were looking for.  Because the prophet promises a Messiah will be born, a tiny child, one who is to be their savior.  This hope was too vague; too remote for them.  What are you looking for this Christmas?  When the Christ Child comes, will He fulfill your hope?  You see, that hope really isn’t fulfilled in the gifts you get; and it may not be fulfilled by your other worldly hopes either.  To find hope in Jesus, you have to look deeper.   

Now Jesus, the Messiah, came to us under the most humbling of circumstances.  He was born in a manger; and was attended by poor shepherds and farmers.  It was in Bethlehem in the remote and lonely hills of Israel.  Jesus did not come amongst the world’s favorites.  He did not receive pomp and ceremony from the world.  He did not bring into the world the peace and resolution that the people wanted in the way they expected it.  Rather, He came to rescue the world from the prevailing wisdom of the day.  Are you looking for some bursts of worldly wisdom, some miracles that will make all of your worldly problems go away?  Because the real gift of the Christ child is different than that.  It is simplicity and humility and inward.  It is an inner knowing, a transformation of the heart.  That’s what Jesus came for- to transform our hearts and to show us a different way through the Gospel.   

Now St. Paul tells us something that is truly unique about our Faith-  that Jesus Christ is God made man.  That is the essence of what we call the Incarnation-  that God became one of us, and was incarnate as a human being.  Nobody else teaches that, not the Eastern Religions, not the Moslems, not the Jews, not the Buddhists, not the Hindus, and none of the new age religions either.  None of them teaches that God came and dwelled among us to show us the way once and for all; and to give us an example and to redeem all of us in a single act of saving self-sacrifice.   Only Christianity teaches that God became man by sending His only son amongst us.  And therein lays the secret to our joy- the Incarnation holds that secret.  We don’t have to wonder what the words in sacred books mean;  or try to decode some esoteric wisdom of a guru; or cower before a transcendent super being in fear.  We know that ours is a loving God who came and dwelled amongst us,   Jesus who was and is close to us, and showed us by His example, the Gospel, what it takes to live a life pleasing to God. 

But is that how we are patterning our lives, after the Gospel?  Because this is the perfect time of the year to ponder on that and find the key to living a God centered life for ourselves.   

Notice that God did something else.  He brought our wonderful savior Jesus to us through the normal process of birth.  He did not miraculously send Jesus into this world.  Jesus was born of a woman, Mary.  And Mary showed us that she understood the essence of what it means to live a God-centered life.  Yes, Mary understood what the key was by saying yes to her call by the Lord, and giving up whatever ambitions she may have had.   

Have you heard that call?  It can come in many different forms and at almost any stage of life-  a burning urge to make a difference;  taking care of an aged relative or family member; children and their many special needs; or a call to service in the Church.  It can even come in the form of using a talent you have to the fullest extent. 

Sometimes it is hard to hear that call in the humdrum of the normal flow of life.  We have to take some time out, and just be still and listen.  Yet there is a benefit in hearing and responding to the call; because when you respond to God’s call, there is a great feeling of inner joy and peace.   

That brings us to the ultimate reason for all of our joy- the coming glory that we will experience when we enter the Kingdom of God.  We get a sense of that glory in reading that describes the birth of Jesus and the visit of the angels to the shepherds.   We hear of the glory of the Lord, and the joy and celebration of the choirs of angels.  Because this is so foreign to us, we can be cynical.  The joys of this life are all we experience.  But this life ends- and this first hand Gospel report of the heavenly host and things that will be just seems too good to be true.  And yet, it is what we believe.  We either believe the whole Gospel, or all of it is nonsense to us.   

The shepherds believed, because they saw, they experienced, the glory of the Lord and so, they went to see the baby Jesus, and the story by the angels was validated for them.  Imagine what those shepherds must have experienced.  A crazy, unlikely story by an other-worldly angelic figure, followed by a heavenly chorus of angels.  It must have seemed like a dream.  But then, they saw the baby Jesus, just as the Angel predicted and realized that the unlikely story was true.  Now seeing is believing; and that’s what happened to the shepherds.  They must have been in ecstatic joy having seen the glory of the Lord that they had just been promised a share in.  We, on the other hand, are called upon to accept all this on faith based on the Gospel story and the traditions of our Church.  But our share in the glory is real; and it is what our faith is all about.     

Yes, Jesus is the light of the world.  He was from the beginning; and will be forever.  He has come to give all of us the gift of also becoming children of God for those who believe, and follow Jesus,   Our reward is the joy and happiness of the Kingdom, of God, and a share in the Glory of God.  And that is what we await in joyful expectation! 

The Tremendous Love of God

Thursday, December 1st, 2011

Advent Reflection Service

  Dc. Larry Brockman

  

Love  That’s what Christmas is all about-  the boundless love that God has for us.   

   Last week, my wife and I were privileged to take care of two of our Grandchildren.  One evening, my wife was trying to get our 4 year old grandson Jonah down for the evening.  After reading him some stories, a few Children’s Bible stories in fact, she asked him if he had Jesus in his heart.  He looked up at her, and with a tear in his eye, he said:  “Granny, I think I have Jesus in my heart, but I wish you would ask Him to speak a little louder, because I can’t hear him!”!     

  I wonder how many of us feel the same way.  We think we have Jesus in our hearts, but we are not certain.  How do we get Him to speak a little louder to us?  How do know Jesus is really in our hearts?  Well, this is the time of year that the Church sets aside for all of us to work on that- Advent, the season to prepare for the coming of Jesus.  Now, we can be sidetracked from this important task.  There are Christmas Cards, Christmas Trees, baking to be done, gifts to buy, people to visit and to be hosted, and all kinds of parties and rituals that we will participate in.  Most of them are good in and of themselves because they show that we care, and they show that we can give as well as receive.  But sometimes they take away from our ability to prepare for the coming of Jesus.  And that should be our priority.   

  Today, we have just heard the story of God’s coming among us.  We call that the Incarnation- where God sends Jesus, consubstantial with the Father, into the world to live as a human being.  Wow!  If you really think about that, that the all-powerful, infinite, ever-present God   Sent Himself to live as we do right alongside of us, then it can only bring us immense joy.  And Christmas is the expression of that.  But it implies so much more than that.  The Incarnation is the story of how God loves us, loves us so completely that he would send His Son among us.  So how can we get a feel for just how much God loves us?  Well consider the readings we just heard.   

  First, even though God saved His chosen people from Pharaoh and the Egyptians; and brought them to the promised land; and gave them special prophets and kings; the people were still looking for a sign that God was with them.  And just like a parent who constantly needs to reassure their children, God loved them enough that he did give them a sign- the promised coming of Immanuel, the Messiah.  That is love.   

  And God went on to promise that the savior would come in the town of Bethlehem, just a small insignificant shepherd town.  And so, the Messiah would be born of humble roots.  He would not be famous by birth; he would not be well to do.  He would not be one of the privileged folk of the time.  He would be like one of us, someone we could identify with.  That is love.   

  Not only that, the Messiah would come to save all people, not just the Israeli people.  All of us were to share in the inheritance, Gentile and Jew- God loves all His people.  That is love.

  Then, God chose Mary, a human being like us in absolutely every way to be His mother- the God-bearer.  An ordinary person was entrusted with the responsibility to bring Jesus into the world and bring him up to be an adult.  God, through His angel Gabriel, accepted Mary’s word that she would do God’s will for her, sacrificing whatever goals she had, just to be Jesus’ mother.  And so, the almighty God trusted in our humanity, and that is love.   

  And then it happened- it really happened.  The promise of many generations was fulfilled.  Jesus was born of humble parents in a very ordinary way in the town of Bethlehem,  just like God promised.  That is love.   

  Finally, knowing that all of us needed to know more about our God, John reveals the Trinity to us in the last reading.  The Trinity is a mystery, something we cannot totally grasp.  But nevertheless, God has revealed the Trinity to us.  He has revealed that Jesus is the son of God, fully human and fully divine.  And that Jesus brings the light of God into the world to enlighten us and to show us the way, a way which has been recorded for all time in the Gospels- the Good News of Jesus Christ.  God has done that for all of us Christians.  The Incarnation is unique among the world’s religions.  And the fact is that the Incarnation is so important because it makes God imminent, that is, present to us at a close and personal level.  Now it is also  true that our God is high above us, or what is called transcendent, so much more intelligent and capable and powerful than anything human beings can conceive.  That’s what other religions teach- that God is transcendent.  And yet, because of the Incarnation, God is both Transcendent and Imminent to us Christians.  And being immanent means that we have can have a personal relationship with Jesus, and that is so important.  That is another mystery- but we know that it is true.  It is the essence of what we believe on faith.  That, too, is surely love.   

  And so we know that God really loves us.  He has stuck with us over thousands of years of doubt.  He has sent His only son to live as one of us  He trusted in the word of His mother to do His will,  And after all that, He promised us who believe eternal life- all of us, each and every one of us.  He is a God who is not just high above us and remote, but one who is present to us through His son- always.  That is tremendous love, or as Father Ennis would say, awesome love.  And so we have reason to celebrate Christmas with great joy.  That joy is our way of expressing our appreciation for God’s love.   

  When we acknowledge just how much God loves us; when the reality of that love becomes so very real and present to us that we want to please God in all things, then, we will know that we have Jesus in our hearts.  That is why it is so important to reflect during the season of Advent on Jesus’ coming.  Because, first, we need to understand how much God loves us.  When we discover the boundless, unconditional, love God has for us through Jesus’ coming,  then, we will come to love God.  For what child among us doesn’t love a parent or Grandparent for exactly the same reason-  that they are loved unconditionally?   

  This is the time of year that Santa Claus is featured in the stores and decorations and stories of the Season.  Santa symbolizes the love of Christ because he gives and gives and gives without limit.  True, they are earthly gifts.  But they symbolize the gift of the Christ Child, which is the great gift of Love by God to all of us.  And so when your child asks you about Santa Claus, you would certainly say something like:  “Yes Virginia, there really is a Santa Claus.” 

  But we have a mission here this year and every year to understand the love of God and to accept Jesus in our hearts.  And it is one demonstrated by my grandson Jonah’s concern about hearing Jesus.  And so, shouldn’t we say instead:  “Yes Jonah, there really is a Jesus.” 

Being Prepared for the Coming of the Lord

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

Advent Reflection Service

Dc. Larry Brockman

 

Christmas Cards, visits to Santa Claus, Christmas Cookies, Holiday Office Parties, Erecting the Christmas Tree, Putting up the Outside Lights, Buying everybody a gift, wrapping the gifts, cooking the Family celebration dinners, and lots more.  It’s all got to get done.  We’ve all got to do it.     

But wait a minute, where is Jesus in all this?  Well, that’s why we are here tonight-  to put Jesus back into Advent and Christmas.  Where do we begin?  Let’s first ask the question- Why do we do all this Christmas stuff?  Is it because it’s just part of the secular ritual of the season, is it because it’s what everybody does?  Or is there a better reason?  Well, how about this reason?  We do all this because of the joy we feel over the fact that God loved us so much he sent his only son into the world in human form- God incarnate as man, fully human and fully divine. 

Think about that- I mean really think about it.  For thousands of years before the birth of Jesus, people believed in some higher being or beings.  But, they were transcendent- that is, distant and separate from us, unapproachable.  There was no way we could relate directly to God.  And then, Jesus was born into the world.  Jesus was born as all of us are- in relative obscurity, in an ordinary way (and in his case, among poverty).  But, Jesus was born as both fully human and fully divine.  Here was the image of the one true God, no longer transcendent, but visible and available in a way that all of us could relate to- as one of us.  Gone was the transcendence that separated us from becoming close to God.  In other words, God became immanent to us- as openly available as any other person at the time.  Wow! What a great cause for joy.  Because now, after thousands of years of mystical conversations with a transcendent God, here was a manifestation of God we could touch and feel and relate to- a manifestation of God that had the same likes and dislikes, habits and needs, temptations, and limitations  as all of us. 

f that doesn’t bring joy, it should, because there is nothing else like it; no other earthly religion that guarantees it,  That God loved us so much that he showed himself as one of us.  And showed us that we could live a life that was pleasing to him even with all our limitations.    How do we know all this? 

Recognize first of all the promise- the promise in our first reading that a savior would be born,  and His name would be Immanuel- God Saves.  And then we were told where it would happen- in Bethlehem, in our second reading.  In our third reading, Paul unlocks for us the mystery of the mission of God-made–man.  The mission is to dwell among us, suffer and die by fulfilling the Father’s will, and finally, His resurrection and coming to power.  And how does God send his Son amongst us?  Well, in our fourth reading we see that Jesus was born of a woman.  A woman who said yes to the will of the Father- a woman who had dreams of a normal marriage and family, but was called to sacrifice herself for the will of her God.  And she said “yes”.  This is a challenge we all face.  The challenge to say yes to whatever the Father sends our way, for better or worse, richer or poorer, or sickness or health. 

And then, in our fifth reading, we hear the incredible story of Jesus birth told in the Gospel- the promise fulfilled; the God-made-man a reality,  But it happened in the most humble of circumstances, as humbling as any of the circumstances of the least amongst us- so real; so earthly; so bazaar. 

But wait, it gets better.  Because the promise of the messiah was made to the Jews.  And Mary and Joseph were Jews.  So, in our sixth reading, we see the promise extended- extended to lowly shepherds who were the first to give testimony to the miracle of the incarnation.  This is a symbol of the universal gift- to all nations, not just the Jews.  And then finally, we hear what was called the last Gospel in the old Tridentine Mass.  John gives us a theological summary of the meaning of it all.  The Word existed from the beginning with God the Father, and became man.  That defines clearly that Jesus is both God and man.  And so, during the four weeks in Advent, we wait in joyful expectation of the coming of our savior

But why four weeks; why so long?  Because our role is not so much waiting for the coming  as it is preparing for the coming.  You see, the coming of the Christ child is something that happened,  and so we can relive it, we can remember it.  And we can experience the joy.  Thank you Jesus   

But, that first coming, the birth of Jesus, is a reminder that He will come again.  Yes, there will be a second coming of Christ.  And that second coming requires preparation.  Because with that second coming is judgment.  The chronicle of John the Baptist’s activity in the readings during Advent is our clue.  Because his message is clear.  Repent and “Prepare ye the way of the Lord”.  As Jesus said in Sunday’s Gospel, that second coming can come at any time for any of us-  It will most likely come when we least expect it.  Are you ready? Are you satisfied with the way you are living your life?  Or is there something about the pattern of your life that needs a change? 

What is it that gnaws at you and says “the track I am on is just not right”.  It may be because you are too harried with job and responsibilities, always cutting corners to get as much into the agenda as possible; but never having enough time to do things the right way and to put things into the right priority; or perhaps you spend too much time absorbed in your own world, immersed in video games or football or telephone marathons with your friends.  These are addictions of a sort.  Then there are classical addictions: addictions to food or alcohol or drugs or pornography; and as a result of your preoccupation with your interests or your addictions, your work or family or household affairs suffer the consequences.  Or perhaps you have settled into a pattern of withdrawal, of non-involvement, where days and weeks go by and all of your activity revolves around yourself,. Perhaps its because of depression or older age, and it is so much easier to just not get involved, and so you don’t extend yourself by getting out and relating to others. 

These are all patterns that can harbor sin in a social context, because the life styles that foster them ignore the responsibility we have to participate fully in the world in the context that God has planned for us.  We need to reflect on our lives, and do what we can to steer them in the right direction.   

And so, I’m asking you to do something a little different this Advent.  Do enjoy the season- the Cookies and Tree and Santa, and gift giving and all of that.  But set aside some time each day, just a little time each day, to think about the direction your life is taking and the impact it has on others- your family, your work associates, and society as a whole.  What can you do differently that makes a difference.  If you are harried; how can you slow down and feel the pulse of God urging you in His direction.  If you are in a slump; how can you respond to little urges to get involved or to make a difference.  If you are addicted, how can you clean up your act. 

In any event, don’t let this Advent pass you by.  Get ready for Christ.  He is coming.