Scripture Readings: Prophet Isaiah 7:10-14; Letter to the Romans 1:1-7; Gospel According to Saint Matthew 1:18-24

Christmas Day draws near, just a week from today. People are shopping, cooking, cleaning, sending cards and gifts, and trying to breath a sigh of relief that maybe, just maybe, they can dodge the covid crisis this year and even next.

We are very limited in our prediction of the future, of course, and can only hope and pray for the best. Despite the uncertainties of life surrounding us, we are called to carry on in faith and love and to believe that God is indeed “in control,” and desires that we be witnesses to hope.

On this closest Sunday to Christmas, the Scripture readings for Mass direct our attention to the theme of the coming Redeemer, whom we believe is Jesus Christ, true God and true man. He was born in time of a virgin mother, two thousand years ago, and grew in wisdom and stature over the course of time, leading up to his public ministry and ultimately to death on the Cross. After that, and most splendidly of all, Christ rose from the dead and opened the way to life immortal for the human race.

In the 1960s folk singers sang, “Where have all the flowers gone?”, lamenting the passing of familiar things, including not only flowers, but also young men, presumably going off to fight wars and who would die in the process. Not too uplifting a thought, but the questions linger: what is life all about, where are we headed and for what do we live?

These are questions that perhaps older people, like myself (now seventy years young!), will more likely ponder than people half my age or less, but everyone needs to be cognizant that life is more than health, wealth, beauty and the accumulation of “things.” While life can certainly be enjoyed, we must not neglect the essential spiritual dimension, that goes beyond the material. For followers of Jesus, it is all about a relationship with the living God, Whom we profess as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

At this time of year, the Church invites us to “prepare our hearts,” for the coming of Christ, who was born in Bethlehem, who will come again at the end of time, and who comes to us at each moment of our life, if we so allow, with open hearts and minds. The Sacraments of the Church, instituted by Christ, are the principal channels through which we come into contact with God, especially in Holy Communion and the Forgiveness of Sins. We also meet God, of course in personal prayer, in the silence of the heart, as well as in pondering Sacred Scripture and finding God’s creation a source of awe in what God has done and continues to do. And those with whom we live and interact are sources of knowing God’s goodness as well.

The Gospel passage assigned to be read at Mass on this final Sunday of Advent, from the first chapter of Saint Matthew, is the recounting of how the birth of Jesus Christ came about, as the perfect fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy of Isaiah: “The virgin shall be with child and give birth to a son, and they shall call him Emmanuel.”

The origins of Jesus is wrapped in the mystery of God, for the Child to be born is conceived of the Holy Spirit, and is, as the Apostle Peter would later confess: “the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” God has been faithful to his promise to redeem all peoples, and the Savior of the nations, Christ the Lord, is the embodiment of that promise. This is cause for great comfort and joy for all peoples everywhere. That’s what the Christmas season quickly approaching is all about!

In the coming days we may be inundated with appointments, celebrations, reunions and the like, but may we never forget the “reason for the season,” and take time to ponder God’s presence in our lives and strive to cultivate a deeper appreciation for the great things God has done and will do for us as individuals, family, communities and nations.

A Merry and Blessed Christmas 2022 to all!

Abbot Christian Leisy, OSB