It is very unusual for us to celebrate both the Fourth Sunday of Advent and Christmas Eve on the same day. It actually only happens once every six or seven years. It will certainly seem strange to come to Mass Sunday morning seeing the violet vestments and the Advent wreath and then coming in the evening to the tune of Christmas carols and the sound of trumpets. However, the Scripture readings for these two very different liturgical feasts do tie in together.
In the First Reading for the Advent Mass, David desires to build a house for God, but through the prophet Nathan, God tells David that he never asked for a house and plans always to dwell among the people as he did during their desert wanderings. At the same time, God promises to build a house (or a dynasty) for David and to give him a son who will be an everlasting king and whom God will treat like his own son. What astonishing favor David receives from God!
The Gospel builds upon the imagery of this David story. The angel Gabriel tells Mary that she is God’s favored one and that she will give birth to a son who “will be called Son of the Most High” and who will be given “the throne of David his father.” How utterly confused this young girl must have been, yet she quickly gives her fiat to the angel’s words.
In the Second Reading, we are invited to join in a doxology, a prayer of praise to God that celebrates God’s hidden plan for humanity. This plan is gradually revealed through the prophets and the covenants and is fully manifest in the person of Jesus. That manifestation is what we celebrate at Christmas.
Yes, at Christmas we celebrate the wonder of our God who has loved us so much that he gave us his only Son to be our Savior. It’s so important that we as faithful people always remember this truth in the midst of all the other trappings of Christmastide. We want to enjoy and appreciate the love of family, the time spent with friends, the sparkling lights and the gift-giving that shows our love for each other. We want to taste the delicious foods associated with Christmas and the wonderful cakes and cookies that fill our tables. Let’s sing along with the secular tunes of “Jingle Bells” and “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas,” but likewise sing proudly the Christian hymns of “O Come, All Ye Faithful” and “O Little Town of Bethlehem.”
The friars, staff, ministers and volunteers want to wish each of you a very Merry Christmas filled with graces galore. May you feel the love of God in every inch of your being and express that love to everyone you meet throughout this holy season!
NATIVITYOF THE LORD
Tonight’s readings for the Nativity of the Lord present the beautiful imagery of Jesus as Emmanuel, God-with-us. In the First Reading, from Isaiah, the prophet is excited and impatient to sing of Jerusalem’s vindication, saying that she will be given a new name—implying a new destiny—and that she will be cherished by God like a crown in God’s hand or like God’s bride. Thus the prophet describes Jerusalem’s experience of God-with-us in the most encouraging images as the Judean people struggle to put their lives back together after the Babylonian exile.
The Second Reading further develops this idea of God-with-us in human history. Paul is described as giving a speech to his fellow Jews in Antioch of Pisidia (today, in central Turkey) where he traces God’s relationship with Israel from the time of the patriarchs through David to Israel’s Savior, Jesus.
Likewise, the Gospel’s genealogy (in the longer version of the reading) identifies Jesus as the Christ (Greek, meaning “anointed”), the son of David, and son of Abraham, but the pattern of three groups of fourteen generations puts the focus on Jesus as the Son of David who would appear at the end time and restore Israel to its special place as God’s sovereign people. In early rabbinic gematria, a form of Hebrew numerology, fourteen was David’s number. The Gospel writer goes on to tell the story of how a fearful and troubled man named Joseph came to understand that he should not turn away his already pregnant fiancée, because her child was conceived of the Holy Spirit and would be named Jesus (in Hebrew Yeshua, meaning “God saves”). All this was to fulfill the words of the prophet, Matthew says: “And they shall name him Emmanuel.”
Pope Francis notes in The Joy of the Gospel that the Incarnation does not end with the birth of Christ. It continues, he emphasizes, as we act as Christ to one another—giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, and visiting the imprisoned. Pope Francis states: “God’s word teaches that our brothers and sisters are the promulgation of the incarnation for each of us: ‘As you did it to one of these, the least of my brethren, you did it to me’ (Mt 25:40)” (#179).
We hear in Matthew that the virgin will name her son “Emmanuel” or “God with us.” The birth of Jesus is not the end of the story, for in coming to us, the Son of God becomes one of us so that we might be more like God. As Pope John Paul II states in Dies Domini: “Christians ponder the mystery of the incarnation and contemplate the Word of God who deigns to assume our humanity in order to give us a share in his divinity” (#77).
For Your Reflection: How can you focus your life to acknowledge that God is with us always—in our times of joy, sorrow, and our daily routine? During this Christmas Time, how can you be more attentive during worship so that you may sing the praises of the Lord? How will you bring Christ to another person this week?
CARDINAL CUPICH’S CHRISTMAS LETTER
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
In 1223, just two years before his death, Saint Francis of Assisi set up a living crèche, a replica of the manger in Bethlehem at the birth of Jesus. He preached and prayed before the scene. His biographer, Thomas of Celano, says that in that moment Francis was “overwhelmed with love and filled with wonderful happiness.” His contemplation of Jesus, the Word made flesh, drew him to experience the depth of God’s love.
We live in a troubled world beset by wars, violence, injustice, broken relationships, and illness. Beyond that, we do believe and are convinced that God loves us and walks with us in Jesus, his Son. As we know, God will heal us and our broken world and bring us into the fullness of life. It is my hope that when you pray before the mystery of the Incarnate Word, as Saint Francis prayed, you will be renewed in hope and confidence and be “overwhelmed with love and filled with wonderful happiness.”
May God bless you with a renewal of faith, hope, and love as we celebrate the birth of the Lord.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Cardinal Blade J. Cupich
Archbishop of Chicago
A CHRISTMAS POEM
by Dan Guzman
A long, long time ago three men followed a light,
Until they came across a manger, filled with joy and might.
Into this world a child was born,
To save the people of this place so torn.
Happy Birthday to a Baby Boy,
He doesn’t want money or gold, not even a toy.
He came into this world quiet and meek,
He grew to a man, humble but not weak.
His mother was Mary and the man was Joe,
They both knew that one day he would have to go.
He was falsely accused and condemned by most,
But on the last night before his death, he left us a Host.
He gave wisdom and knowledge and his Body and Blood,
For the next day he knew he would be beaten and pushed in the mud.
As he picked up his cross, harsh words and jeers were his chimes,
But before he got to the end, he fell three times.
Lashes and whips followed him to the top of the hill,
All the while, he loved his enemies still.
They stuck him to the cross by hammer and nail,
His mother was there, you could tell by her wail.
When the end finally came, the earth got dark and it rattled and shook,
But he left us his words and teachings in a small book.
So do not be afraid or startled by fright—
Let’s all remember him on this holy Christmas night.
NEW YEAR’S DAY
Every year on January 1 we celebrate both the Feast of Mary, the Mother of God, and the World Day of Prayer for Peace. For many years January 1st was always considered one of the holydays of obligation. However, this year, since the feast falls on a Monday, there is no obligation to participate in the Eucharist.
Therefore, on Sunday, December 31, we will have our regular Sunday schedule of Masses for the Feast of the Holy Family and on New Year’s Day we will celebrate only one Mass at St. Peter’s at 10:00 A.M. The church will open at 9:00 A.M. and then close for the day shortly after the 10:00 Mass ends so that the friars and staff may have a leisurely New Year’s Day.
HAPPY NEW YEAR to one and all. May 2018 prove to be a year filled with peace, joy, love and happiness. May the love we feel in our own hearts be shared with everyone we meet day after day!
FRIAR PERSONNEL UPDATE
Br. Herb Rempe, O.F.M. has lived at St. Peter’s for almost twenty years. When he first came, his ministry was primarily in the Friars Legion office, but from 2003 until the present he has served as the Business Manager for both the church and the friary. During all those years he has done a magnificent job and has been a wonderful presence. Everyone who has come to know him recognizes his dedication, his expertise and his pleasant personality.
For the past several years Br. Herb has been dealing with some health problems: heart, arthritis and leg issues. All this has slowed him down considerably, but he still did his job and remained faithful in all his responsibilities. On Sunday, November 26, he fell in his room and was taken to Northwestern Hospital. Although we feared that perhaps he had broken a bone, nothing was found, she he was transferred to Warren Barr Pavilion on November 29 for therapy. While he was undergoing that treatment, he decided it was time for him to transfer to our infirmary in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, to be with a number of our other friars who are in need of supervised care.
We will miss Br. Herb in the weeks and months ahead, but we know he will be in good hands. In the meantime, Br. Clarence Klingert, O.F.M. will take over the Business Office while continuing as Director of the Book and Gift Shop. Please remember Br. Herb in your prayers as he transitions to this next phase of his life.
- PETER’S YOUNG ADULTS
We would like to remind young adults between the ages of 20-40 that we have a great group of your peers who meet here at St. Peter’s every Monday evening from 5:30-7:00 P.M. They gather for some social time, prayer time, and input, usually in the auditorium but sometimes in the friary chapel. From time to time they also have service projects or social excursions. If you would like to join or just to check out the group, we invite you to stop down any Monday at 5:30 and you would be most welcome.
A CHUCKLE FOR CHRISTMAS
St. Peter was standing at the Pearly Gates one day when a man suddenly appeared before him. The man said, “Let me in,” but before St. Peter could say anything, the man disappeared.
A few minutes later the man appeared again and said, “Let me in!” Again, before St. Peter could say anything, the man disappeared.
A few minutes later the man appeared again and said frantically, “Let me in quick!”
St. Peter said, “Are you playing games with me?” “No,” the man said. “They’re trying to resuscitate me!”