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 Friday and we are invited to celebrate that great event. Unfortunately, this year, due to COVID protocols, we cannot sing with loud voices our familiar carols. However, 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.”
While we are restricted in the number of people who may join us for each Mass this year be assured the Franciscans and those who gather for our Christmas Masses are keeping everyone in our prayers. 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 2020 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 all come today 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 to celebrate this Christmas season of 2020 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-Wednesday from 10:30am until 3:00pm. Please note there are no confessions scheduled for December 24. 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 December 24 the church is closed for cleaning and decorating for Christmas. Christmas Masses are on December 24 at 4:00pm and 7:00pm. On December 25 Masses are at 9:00am and 11:00am. Please call the church offices to reserve a place at one of the Christmas Masses. For the safety of everyone attending Masses in the Archdiocese at this time, we are restricted on the number of people who may attend. If you know someone who is not aware of the present restrictions please be sure and remind them to call the church if they plan to attend and register for one of the Christmas Masses.
Thanks to our great parish staff, dedicated volunteers, the Franciscan Friars and so many others we are able to provide Christmas Masses this year. Though our services will not be as celebratory as in other years we still can give thanks to God for coming among us so many years ago to offer peace and good will to all in our world.
On behalf of the Church staff and the Franciscan Friars, I wish you a Blessed Christmas season. May our celebration of the birth of our Savior remind each of us of our Baptismal call to faithfully follow the Lord Jesus. May God bless everyone this holy Christmas Season!
BLESSING OF CHRISTMAS TREE
Lord our God,we praise you for the light of creation:
the sun, the moon, and the stars of the night.
We praise you for Jesus Christ, your Son:
he is Emmanuel, God-with-us, the Prince of Peace,
who fills us with the wonder of your love.
Let your blessing come upon us
as we illumine this tree.
May the light and cheer it gives
be a sign of the joy that fills our hearts.
may all who delight in this tree
come to the knowledge and joy of salvation.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
© USCCB, 1989
CHRISTMAS BLESSING OF HOME
(The head of the household leads the prayer)
Lord God of heaven and earth,
you revealed your only-begotten Son to every nation
by the guidance of a star.
Bless our home
and all who live here.
Fill us with the light of Christ,
that our concern for others may
reflect your love.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen
© USCCB, 1989