A Very Merry Christmas to everyone who visits St. Peter’s over this Christmas Season and also to everyone who regularly attends St. Peter’s but who are away visiting family and friends for the holidays. These days in the Windy City are some of the most beautiful, although the cold temperatures can sometimes be a downer. If there is any one common comment I hear from visitors as I greet them at the church door each weekend, it is “We are visitors to Chicago, but we want you to know that Chicago is certainly a beautiful and friendly city.” It does not matter whether people are here for business, for a family vacation, attending a conference, enjoying a sports event, etc., the opinion seems to be unanimously affirmative, and this holds for any time of the year.
However, Chicago at Christmas takes the cake in terms of things to do and ways to enjoy our magnificent city. When I think of Christmas in Chicago, here are just a few of the events that come to my mind and why I love Christmastime in our city: The Nutcracker by the Joffrey Ballet at the Auditorium Theater, A Christmas Carol at the Goodman, the Great Tree at Macy’s in the Walnut Room, the Indoor and Outdoor ice skating rinks here in the Loop, the Morton Arboretum Holiday Lights, Christkindlmarket at Daley Plaza, the Zoo Lights at Lincoln Park, the City Christmas Tree in Millennium Park, the Magnificent Mile all decorated with thousands of lights, Christmas Concerts at Symphony Hall and at numerous venues around the city, riding the CTA Holiday Train, the evening view from atop the Willis Tower and the Hancock Building, the Christmas trees at the Museum of Science and Industry decorated from countries around the world—to name a few. What other city can boast of so many wonderful attractions and many of them within walking distance of each other?
A few days ago I was talking with one of our ministers before Mass, and he was telling me that the anxiety level among his children was getting higher and higher each day. That reminded me of my childhood days when it seemed that Christmas would never come. I had already written my letter to Santa telling him what I wanted from him, and I did not want him to forget, so my Mom took me to see him at Ayres Department Store. I must say Santa was usually quite good in bringing me most of what I had asked for. The gifts and toys that he forgot always seemed to be the ones that my parents had indicated that they thought might be either “too heavy for Santa to carry” or “too big to fit into his bag” or “ones that too many other children might have wanted and he might run out of them by the time he got to our house!”
Christmas, celebrated as the Birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Word made flesh, is a great reminder that He has come to save all of humanity from sinfulness. It is a time to reflect on Peace on Earth, on the dignity of each individual, of the continuing love that God in Jesus has for each person and on that same dignity that we are called to share with everyone we meet and greet. Yet as we celebrate Christmas this year, we are still grappling with the horror of all kinds of violence in our communities, the proliferation of guns on our streets, the reality of over 700 senseless killings in our city, the relatively high rate of unemployment especially among minorities, the threat of mass deportations of undocumented immigrants and the racial slurs and insults against so many of those “who do not look like me,” and the re-emergence of white nationalism in our country. It is imperative that all Americans work against racial injustice and inequality and toward healing and reconciliation.
I want us to recall what Pope Francis wrote to us when he visited the Shrine of the Nativity at Greccio in Italy just a few weeks ago. It was there he reflected on St. Francis reenacting the first Christmas by using real people and real animals. The Pope comments:
“Why does the Christmas crèche arouse such wonder and move us so deeply? First, because it shows God’s tender love: the Creator of the universe lowered himself to take up our littleness. The gift of life, in all its mystery, becomes all the more wondrous as we realize that the Son of Mary is the source and sustenance of all life. In Jesus, the Father has given us a brother who comes to seek us out whenever we are confused or lost, a loyal friend ever at our side. He gave us his Son who forgives us and frees us from our sins.
“Setting up the Christmas crèche in our homes helps us to relive the history of what took place in Bethlehem. Naturally, the Gospels remain our source for understanding and reflecting on that event. At the same time, its portrayal in the crèche helps us to imagine the scene. It touches our hearts and makes us enter into salvation history as contemporaries of an event that is living and real in a broad gamut of historical and cultural contexts.”
Christmas is such a wonderful time of the year. We love to think about it, reflect on it, sing and listen to our Christmas carols that talk about it, feel its energy, and experience its love in family settings, but this year let’s live it in very concrete ways. Let’s make a difference by helping to change what needs to be changed in our own attitudes and behaviors and then do our part to help change our neighborhoods and our city. May you have a blessed Christmas and a New Year filled with the Lord’s choicest graces! And thank you for your continued financial support of Saint Peter’s ministry as well as the friars and staff.
FOURTH SUNDAY OF ADVENT
On this final Sunday before Christmas, the readings highlight the foundation of our faith in Jesus’ identity and, by extension, our identity as his followers.
Matthew opened his Gospel, in imitation of the Old Testament, with a genealogy of Jesus Christ that identifies him as a descendant of Abraham through the lineage of David. Today’s reading gives Matthew’s account of Jesus’ birth presented from Joseph’s perspective. Joseph’s dilemma regarding Mary’s pregnancy is resolved when in a dream an angel reveals that the child is conceived “through the Holy Spirit.” The child to be born is the Son of God and the son of Mary. This is Jesus’ identity: fully divine and fully human. Matthew supports this by quoting from Isaiah’s prophecy: “Behold the virgin shall conceive and bear a son and they shall name him Emmanuel.”
This is the same Gospel message that St. Paul hands on so clearly in the beginning of his Letter to the Romans (today’s Second Reading). The message of the Good News of our salvation centers on the person of Jesus fully human, as a descendant of David and foretold by the prophets, and fully divine, as the Son of God and demonstrated by the Resurrection.
Jesus’ identity has significant implications for us. We are called to “belong to Jesus Christ” by being transformed in holiness through the grace and peace that comes through Jesus’ Resurrection. This is our faith. This is our inheritance: “We belong to Jesus Christ” as God’s beloved children called to be saints. As such, like St. Paul, we are called to witness to this message by our lives.
In the First Reading, Isaiah tells the House of David that God will send a sign. That sign will be a son, who will be born to a virgin, who will name him Emmanuel, which means “God is with us.” In the encyclical Deus caritas est, Pope Benedict XVI points out that Jesus Christ is the incarnate love of God. “In Jesus Christ, it is God himself who goes in search of the ‘stray sheep,’ a suffering and lost humanity. When Jesus speaks in his parables of the shepherd who goes after the lost sheep, of the woman who looks for the lost coin, of the father who goes to meet and to embrace his prodigal son Jesus. These are no mere words” (#12).
Telling the story of Jesus’ birth, Matthew notes that “Mary was found with child through the Holy Spirit.” These few words indicate Mary’s “intimate union with God,” as Pope Benedict XVI states in Deus caritas est. He continues, “Mary, Virgin and Mother, shows us what love is and whence it draws its origin and its constantly renewed power” (#42).
The Gospel’s account of the birth of Jesus shows the link that Mary has to our salvation. Mary submitted to God’s will to conceive by the Holy Spirit. Lumen gentium states, “The holy Fathers see her as used by God not merely in a passive way, but as freely cooperating in the work of human salvation through faith and obedience” (#56).
For Your Reflection: Do you think of the earth as belonging to God or belonging to human beings? What does it mean to you to be called to holiness? How can you still spend time in quiet this Advent to listen to God?
CARDINAL CUPICH’S CHRISTMAS LETTER
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Across this liturgical year, we hear Saint Matthew’s Gospel. And in this holy season that celebrates the birth of Jesus, we hear a story unique to Matthew—the journey of the Magi. He writes: “The Magi were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother.”
We can imagine their joy. They discovered the one for whom they longed and searched. He is the newborn Jesus. His mother Mary holds him in her arms and, at the same time, presents him to the world. In this simple gesture, she evangelizes, gives us the living good news of her son. Then and now, it is a moment wrapped in joy.
On our journey of renewal in the Archdiocese of Chicago, may this image of Mary, mother of the Lord, inspire and encourage us to carry and present Jesus to a world that is so much in need of him. In our marriages, families, workplaces, and communities, may we joyfully carry and present him who is the great light shining in the darkness.
God bless you and all your loved ones in this holy season.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Blasé Cardinal Cupich
Archbishop of Chicago
I want to thank the members of the liturgy committee and several of their helpers who have worked long and hard on our Christmas decorations this year. It takes a lot of planning and much time to make our church come alive with the Christmas spirit fitting for the celebration of so great a feast. The fact that we want to keep the Advent environment as long as possible also means that so much of the decorating must be done in a relatively short amount of time.
We invite you to help us defray the cost of our beautiful Christmas decorations by making a specific donation for this purpose. We have some envelopes to do so near the back of church. Put your gift into one of these envelopes (or you can deposit cash or check without an envelope) and drop it in the box provided. We appreciate this assistance and thank you accordingly.
ST. PETER’S CHRISTMAS SCHEDULE
We invite you to join us either on Christmas Eve or on Christmas Day for a joyful celebration of the Feast of the Incarnation. On Tuesday, December 24, the church will be closed all day until 4:00 P.M. so that we can finish up any remaining work on our Christmas decorations. On Christmas Eve, the Christmas Vigil Mass will be celebrated at 5:00 P.M. The church will then close shortly after the end of that Mass and will reopen at 9:00 P.M. The choir will begin carols at 9:30, and the Mass at Night will begin at 10:00 P.M. with choir and brass.
On Christmas Day, Wednesday, December 25, Masses will be celebrated at 9:00 and 11:00 A.M. The church will be closed at 12:30 for the remainder of the day in order to allow the friar community to relax and have a leisurely meal together. We hope all of you will have a wonderful day as well with family and friends.
IRA CHARITABLE ROLLOVER
Don’t miss this opportunity to make a difference with a tax-free gift from your IRA to St. Peter’s Church by year’s end. If you are 70 1/2 or older, you can contribute up to $100,000 directly from your IRA to St. Peter’s, without including the amount in gross income. For your gift to qualify this year, the gift needs to come directly from whoever holds your IRA and must arrive by December 31, 2019.
For stocks held more than one year that have increased in value, you will avoid capital-gains taxes by gifting all or a portion of the stock to St. Peter’s. If you would like to get more information about a stock transfer, please contact either your tax professional or Mr. Peter Wells at St. Peter’s regarding the tax savings.
We would appreciate you thinking of either of these possibilities as the end of the year approaches. We are dependent upon this kind of charitable remembrance as well as a mention of St. Peter’s in your will or estate since it costs c. $25,000 a week to keep our doors open, yet our regular weekly contributions seldom reach even $10,000.
A CHUCKLE FOR CHRISTMAS
A four-year-old little boy was at the doctor’s office with his mother in the waiting room when he spotted a pregnant lady on the other side of the room. Having nothing better to do, he walked over to her and inquisitively asked, “Why is your stomach so big?”
She replied, “I’m having a baby.”
With big eyes, he replied, “Is the baby in your stomach?”
She said, “He sure is.”
Then the little boy, with a puzzled look on his face, asked yet another question: “Is it a good baby?”
She said, “Oh, yes, it’s a real good baby.” At this point the woman was thinking the little boy was incredibly cute and looked forward to what he had to say next.
And, much to her surprise, with an even more surprised and shocked look than before, he asked, “Then why did you eat him?”