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December 25, 2022: The Nativity of the Lord - Pastor’s Corner

Merry Christmas!!!

Recently, I had the pleasure of watching Dr. Seuss’ “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” with my young nieces and nephew.  It had been many years since I had watched it, and it was delightful to watch this classic afresh through their eyes. When I asked them why the Grinch was a villain, they immediately said because “his heart was two sizes too small.” His myopic heart leads him to both despise Christmas and also shrink his ability to enter into the spirit of the 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 event, 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?” For many, the promise of holiday joy drowns in an ocean of holiday busyness.  Facing this frenzy, the Grinch emerges.

Christmas is not a just 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 resolution includes coming to Mass on a regular basis, you’ll begin to experience the joy of Christmas in a more vibrant and spiritual way. Just ask any of those who are involved personally in our RCIA program or any of our ministries that 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’re in need of such financial support, this year, you might also consider how you use your God-given gifts and talents for others.  This coming year St. Dominic’s will be celebrating its 150-year Jubilee and we are endeavoring to continue and reenergize the more than 50 ministries in our parish. 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. 

Watching the Grinch through the young eyes of family was delightful. Their expressed favorite part was the moment when the Grinch opens his heart to Christmas and is quite dramatically, if not humorously, able to lift the huge sleigh with one hand: “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

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