December 23, 2018 Christmas Message - Pastor’s Corner
Dr. Seuss’ Grinch is a classic character from Christmas literature. As a vibrant villain, the Grinch famously hates Christmas because “his heart was two sizes too small.” Yet as the story develops, it becomes clear that his myopic heart is not simply the reason he despises the holiday; the Grinch’s misunderstanding of Christmas actually shrinks his ability to enter into the spirit of season. From observing the amount of time and energy that the townsfolk put into celebratory preparations, the Grinch thinks that Christmas is all about dazzling decorations, sweet delights, and grand gifts. So if he steals these items, he will spoil Christmas. Yet the Grinch’s epiphany occurs precisely when, after he has purloined all holiday accoutrement, he sees the townsfolk celebrate. Despite the dearth of decorations and presents, they gather and sing a song of Christmas joy and hope. “And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”
Though Christmas promises peace and joy, all too often, the season can bring out the Grinch in all of us. For example, the holidays are exhausting. From shopping for gifts to crafting cards, from baking seasonal sweets to decorating domiciles, the Christmas preparation to-do list is daunting. Chatting with parents during our St. Dominic’s Advent wreath making, the conversation turned to the dizzying amount of activity these days demand. Weary from Thanksgiving travel and facing a myriad of elementary school and work-related celebrations, one parent joked, “Am I the Grinch to admit that I’ll be relieved when we get past New Year’s?” For many, the promise of holiday joy drowns in an ocean of holiday busyness. Facing this frenzy, the Grinch emerges.
Christmas is not just a part of a holiday season, it is the celebration of the birth of Christ our Savior. Though Christmas decorations, sweets, and gift are reminders of this promised salvation, if our primary time and energy is focused on these symbols, the Grinch in us can spoil the season and rob us of its riches. How might we refocus our preparations and expectations in order to receive the saving power promised by Jesus’ birth?
First, you might consider how much time you give to your relationship with God. We all know that Christmas liturgies are vibrant and full. One of the great delights of being pastor is to celebrate Christmas Masses with a Church brimming with thousands in full throated praise and thanks to God. But as wonderful as this moment is, we all know well that these impressive crowds dwindle in the coming Sundays. In fact, the Sunday after Christmas is notoriously sparse. It is as if the exhaustion of holiday celebration extinguishes the spiritual power offered by Jesus’ birth. Now if you’re among that Christmas crowd, that’s ok. But know that you are welcome every Sunday. In fact, I promise that if this New Year’s resolution includes coming to Mass on a regular basis, you’ll begin to experience the joy of Christmas in more vibrant and spiritual way. Just ask any of those who are involved personally in our RCIA program or any of our ministries which welcome folks to experience the warmth of our St. Dominic’s community.
Second, usually around Christmastime, it is customary for St Dominic’s to make a financial appeal for the needs of the parish. And although we’d be happy to receive such financial support, this year, you might consider how you use your God-given gifts and talents for others. If you’ve never been involved with any of the various ministries of the parish, there’s over 50 different organized ways to make a difference and bring the new life of Christ alive. Pick up a ministry booklet after Mass at the rectory and discover where you can get more involved. The life of St Dominic’s Church flows not just from the energies of the priests and staff, but from you, the parishioners. You are St Dominic’s! This Christmas, God wants to come alive in your life in a fresh, vibrant way.
At the end of story, the true celebration of Christmas transforms the Grinch. “And what happened, then? Well, in Whoville they say - that the Grinch's small heart grew three sizes that day. And then - the true meaning of Christmas came through, and the Grinch found the strength of ten Grinches, plus two!” Similarly, if we make time and prepare to enter more deeply in faith filled Christmas celebrations, we can expect our hearts to grow abundantly as Christ gives us strength anew.
Merry Christmas! ~ Fr. Michael