I can’t believe that Christmas is a mere three days away! Something else comes to my mind when I think of the coming of Christmas and my own life. That is those final few days that led up to my ordination to the priesthood. It was the hoped-for day that I had been waiting for about eight years. All the time in the seminary was all building up to this one day. I was nervous and ready for the day to come and go. Maybe you have experienced some of the same feelings in your own life around your personal wedding experience and too other important long-awaited events in your life. We look towards this day with great anticipation, and we hope it goes as well as we have imagined it. I must say my ordination day was great and was a real blessing for me in my life. It was worth the wait I had to go through my time in seminary and the parish.
On Wednesday, we will celebrate the feast of Christmas. Sometimes the significance of this day can get lost because we have it every year, and to all the commercialization of the day. However, Christmas recognizes the most critical day in the history of the world. For thousands of years, prophets foretold this day and spoke of it’s coming. We are getting ready to celebrate the coming of the Messiah, the long-promised savior who will save us from our sins and bring us back to God.
During Advent, we have heard several prophecies that spoke about the coming of a messiah. We hear one of those prophecies today from Isaiah. He tells Ahaz to ask the Lord for a sign. But with a false sense of humility, he said: “I will not test my lord.” However, Isaiah gives him a sign anyway, and it becomes one of the most important symbols in the Old Testament. “Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and you shall call him Emmanuel. Which means God is with us.” This is one of the most direct signs of the Lord’s coming that we have in the Old Testament. It gives us a taste of the coming story of Christmas when we hear how Jesus is born of a virgin, and he will come to set his people free.
We, too, hear about St. Joseph, who was the husband of Mary. As you may know, as a Church, we believe that Mary remained a virgin forever, and she, as a young woman dedicated her entire life to stay a virgin. So for St. Joseph, when he heard that Mary was pregnant, he was understandably surprised. However, later that night, an angel appears to him in a dream and reassures him that Mary will have a child by the holy spirit, and they shall name him Jesus because he will save the people from their sins.
These readings genuinely prepare us for the coming of Jesus at Christmas and what will be coming soon for our lives. Hopefully, by now, we are ready for Christmas in secular ways. Probably, the presents are wrapped, the Christmas shopping is done, and whatever else needs to be done to make this a special Christmas celebration. However, I would challenge all of us to make this Christmas celebration, and these last few days of Advent a blessed time as well.
If you attend daily mass something that we do as a Church is the eight final days leading up to Christmas, we hear several readings to prepare us for Christmas. We hear all of the stories leading up to the birth of Jesus himself. This past Tuesday, I had to read the genealogy of Jesus. We, too, heard when the angel visited Mary, and the angel told her. “hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you.”
Thinking back to my ordination, there were a few final things I wanted to do to make my day even more unique and more memorable. Part of what I did was pray with the ordination ritual and the other readings that we would have during the Mass. Christmas is only a few days away now. When is the last time we have had a chance to read through the story of Christmas? We may hear parts at Mass but have we sat down to read the Christmas story and pray with it as well.
Something else I did in preparation for my ordination is I went to confession with a brother priest and had my sins washed clean. Part of what this did is it prepared me to receive the sacrament of holy orders better, but too it allowed me to have more joy during that celebration. I know it’s only a couple of days away, and we may not have many opportunities to go to confession. Still, if we can go to confession either before or even after Christmas, I believe the season will be a greater joy and blessing for all of us.