December 16, 2018

During these first weeks of Advent, the Preface (the beginning of the Eucharistic Prayer) has reflected on the two comings of Christ. We have prayed, “For he assumed at his first coming the lowliness of human flesh, and so fulfilled the design you formed long ago, and opened for us the way to eternal salvation, that, when he comes again in glory and majesty and all is at last made manifest, we who watch for that day may inherit the great promise in which now we dare to hope.”

We are indeed a people of hope. A week from this Monday night, we will gather with family and friends and begin our great Christmas celebrations. On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day we will celebrate hope coming to us as a child born in Bethlehem.

God desires to come close to us and in that coming gives us hope that light conquers darkness; that good conquers evil; that kindness and gentleness triumphs over aggression and violence. The “lowliness of human flesh” that God assumes in Jesus tells us that God is one who gives up power and might so as to be with us. That “being with us” is even the name that is given him through the Prophet Isaiah: Emmanuel.

In the coming days you and I will be with family and friends, and that experience of “being with” is an opportunity to catch a glimpse of the presence of the Lord among us. You and I are made in the image and likeness of God. The coming of Jesus crowned for all time the sacredness of the human person. Our human flesh may be “lowly” compared to the glory of God, but it is a lowliness that our God has embraced in its fullness, and which now reflects his glory.

In the coming days we will also welcome among us at church, those who are strangers. Perhaps they are visiting family and friends. Perhaps they are returning to the church after being away for a long time. Perhaps they are our brothers and sister who come to Mass on the big feasts of Christmas and Easter. Perhaps they are those who are searching to find meaning in their lives and have decided to include our church in their search.

All of these people are precious sons and daughters of the Father. In them we can also catch a glimpse of the Lord who comes among us seeking a warm welcome in them.

Here are some suggestions about how we can make these folks feel welcome: On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, park further away from the church, leaving the closer parking spaces for visitors; sit up front to allow more room in the back of the church, where visitors often feel more comfortable; welcome visitors who may want to sit in “your pew.”  If you see someone who does not know quite what to do at Mass, offer to help them. Look at those who you do not know and offer them a warm smile. These simple acts can go a long way to make someone feel welcome, and can, perhaps, communicate to them that it is not just you who are welcoming them, but that God welcomes them, too.  

May these last days of Advent prepare us all to welcome the Lord who comes among us and gives us hope for the future. May we see that hope made manifest in family and friends, and yes, in the strangers we will welcome and with whom we will worship.

God Bless,
Fr. Gary Lazzeroni