December 19, 2021

Today as we light the four Advent candles, we realize Christmas will soon be here. Whether we are ready or not the birthday of our Lord and Savior arrives Saturday and we are invited to celebrate that great event. As we gather for Mass, you are invited to join in singing with others our familiar Christmas carols. I encourage you to reflect upon the words of those carols and the important message of hope that they give to us in our time. The carol, Joy to the World speaks of a joy of the heart, a joy that calls us to realize we have been visited by God and offered eternal salvation. “Joy to the world! the Lord is come; Let earth receive her King; Let every heart prepare him room, And heaven and nature sing, And heaven and nature sing, And heaven and nature sing.”

As we gather to celebrate the great feast of Christmas we especially remember those who have been impacted by the COVID virus in our prayers. To those who have been ill, those who have lost loved ones to the virus, to the dedicated workers in hospitals, health care facilities, essential workers, first responders, the elderly and all who have been impacted by this disease I share with you our prayers and the words of the angel to the shepherds in Luke’s Gospel, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord.” (Luke 2:10)

A few days before Christmas of 1223, St. Francis of Assisi asked his good friend a man named John, who lived in the Rieti Valley of central Italy to come and visit him. St. Francis said to him, “If you would like us to celebrate this feast day of the Lord in Greccio, then go there ahead of me and prepare what I tell you. I would like to portray the Child born in Bethlehem and to see somehow with my bodily eyes the hardship he underwent because he lacked all a newborn’s needs, the way he was placed in a manger and how he lay on the hay between the ox and donkey.” (cf. Thomas of Celano, First Life) And from that humble request the tradition of the Nativity scene has down through time been reminding us of the birth of Christ.

We come together this Christmas 2021 with our own image of the Nativity scene, whether here in church or in our homes, but united with St. Francis and countless others down the ages who have come to adore Jesus Our Lord and King. In the midst of presents and Santa Claus, bringing our laughter and tears, our frequent or occasional practice of the faith we will come on Christmas to worship together Emmanuel, “God become one with us”.

The Nativity scene reminds us how “Christ Jesus, who though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness…. becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.” (Phil. 2:8) As we gather next weekend to celebrate this Christmas season of 2021 may we all bow down in humble adoration of the Lord of the Universe……Jesus Christ! Below you will find a prayer for blessing of your Christmas Tree and a Christmas Blessing for your home.

I remind you that confessions are scheduled at St. Peters this week Monday-Thursday from 10:30 am until 3:00 pm. Please note there are no confessions scheduled for Friday, December 24 or Saturday, December 25.  If you plan to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation at St. Peter's before Christmas please be sure to mark these days and times in your calendar.

On Friday, December 24 the church is closed for cleaning and decorating for Christmas. Christmas Masses are Friday, December 24 at 4:00 pm and 7:00 pm. On Saturday, December 25, Masses are at 9:00 am and 11:00 am. Please remember that following the guidelines of the Archdiocese and City & State health departments, masks are still required at all Masses and functions at churches of the Archdiocese.

As we prepare to celebrate the Christmas Masses, the beauty of the Church, the music, the liturgy and indeed all the wonderful things about St. Peter's Church this Christmas season is due to the hard work and dedication of many, many people. Thanks to our great parish staff, dedicated volunteers, the Franciscan Friars and so many others we are able to continue to provide a strong presence here in the Loop continuing a presence that was begun over 175 years ago.

As we complete our four weeks of Advent preparations, we give thanks to everyone who continues to support the church by your donations to St. Peter's Church.  During these days before Christmas may you find some time for quiet and peace to reflect upon the wonders of this feast.....God has become one with us and offers each of his eternal salvation. May God bless you all!

Fr. Michael