Bulletin Letter from December 25
Because Christmas comes at the end of the calendar year, we often hear news items reflecting on the year or featuring “best of” and “worst of” lists during the season. I like the best of lists – best movies, best books, best music, etc. because they can serve as a reminder of the gratitude appropriate to this season. Most of you know that I love movies. I am grateful for the creativity and craftsmanship that goes into making a good movie and reflecting on the best of the year is delightful (I tend to generally agree with lists made up by critics and film experts) and I remember to be grateful that I enjoyed the fruits of their labors throughout the year.
The gatherings of family and friends during the holidays should afford us the same opportunities, especially when we are separated by time and distance. We should use the holiday season as a time to catch up with people and celebrate with each other the “best of” the year and to mourn together the “worst of.” There are times that in the business of the season, I forget to call or visit with friends and family. The business gets in the way of what the season should be about: relationships. Every time I neglect one of those relationships, even the more difficult relationships among my friends and family, I deprive myself and the other an opportunity for grace. My relationships should provide me with opportunities to encounter the virtue of gratitude.
The Christmas story: the unexpected pregnancy, the long journey, the humble birth, shepherds, angels, and kings, should provide us with the same opportunity to encounter grace. It is, above all, a story of relationships: Mary to Joseph, Mary to Elizabeth, the priest (Zechariah) to his work and people, John to Jesus, Mary to Jesus, Joseph to Jesus, Jesus to the humble shepherds, Jesus to the angelic messengers, Jesus to the exalted magi, all of them to God, and, finally, all of them to US. It would make no sense for us to celebrate this 2000+ year birthday except that it is about US. The Church calls Mary “the first Christian.” She was the first to believe that God was accomplishing the prophesied salvation through her son. But in the Christmas story, Mary, above all the other characters, stands in the place of all humanity – trusting in the faithfulness of God (even with imperfect understanding), putting herself at the service of God’s plan, reflecting and pondering in her heart all the events of Christmas, and growing in a deeper and deeper relationship with this unusual child of hers. Beyond Mary, we might locate ourselves in any of the rest of the cast of characters who populate our crèches; but as we do, it is important to look beyond the sterilized statuary to the flesh and blood reality of the human condition: Do we feel the confusion of a young fiancé whose beloved is pregnant by someone else? Do we feel the alienation of a people displaced by foreign bureaucracy and power? Do we feel the rejection and dejection of someone who cannot find a place to rest? Do we feel the fear (awe) of those who encounter the revelation of God? Are we dumbstruck at our own lack of faith? Do we rejoice at the presence of the Holy Spirit? In all of this, can we come to the deep faith that God is doing in our lives what he has promised?
Our religious observance of Christmas provides us the opportunity to look back over the last year. What has been my “best of?” What has been my “worst of?” This should give us much to be thankful for and some things to work on next year. I suppose the story of Christmas can be just a “nice story” about some “nice people” in “unusual circumstances.” But it should be so much more, it should be about Emmanuel – God with us; and not just God with Mary and Joseph, and shepherds and magi. God with US – you and me. As the story of the coming of the Christ continues to unfold in your hearts and lives, may the reality of His grace create anew in you a spirit of hope and a spirit of gratitude.
On behalf of the staff of the Newman Center and the Dominican Community, I wish you a wonderful Christmas and all the best in 2012.
Peace and Blessings,