Dec 20th, Fourth Sunday of Advent Year C

“He himself will be peace”, the prophet Micah says of the Christ. In our gospel we see the peace, love and joy that Mary brings when, heavily pregnant, she visits Elizabeth. Lets confess where we fail to spread God’s love and peace around us at Christmas..

“Christmas is coming and the geese are getting fat”, we sang when young. Christmas is near now and John B. Keane talks about the “urgings” it brings. He describes a neighbor who normally wouldn’t give the crumbs from his table to a starving child. Yet full of Christmas spirit one year, he phoned his estranged daughter in England and begged her to come home. She came, all was forgiven, and he wasn’t half as mean thereafter. Keane adds: “friends, take Christmas by the horns, it can work wonders, for the milk of kindness doesn’t come from cows and goats but from the human heart”, softened we might add, by the grace of God.
That overflowing Christmas faith and love has survived Stalin, Hitler and all secular efforts to snuff it our. It has survived human greed, intolerance, and all worldly attacks imaginable. Even consumerism, which is one of three dimensions to Christmas today: (1) commercialism – carols, reindeer, Santa Claus and the hard sell; (2) the Charles Dickens Christmas – cards with snowy scenes, roaring fires, turkey, ham, plum pudding, mince pies, universal good will – good cheerful values. But without faith they may amount a brief uplift, a few jolly songs, a few gifts given and received, then back to the grind. Hence the third level, the reason for the whole thing, the Christmas miracle with its timeless message. 2000 years ago was born for us God’s son, Christ the Lord. Now our vocation is unity, peace, joy and love.
But lest I seem to be preaching puritanism let me hasten to add that the first two dimensions have a role to play too. Like Scrooge, pious condemnations of Christmas hoopla can create an unchristian division between spiritual and material realities. That’s deeply unchristian because what we celebrate is the word “made flesh”. Christmas joy must be lived in the flesh too. We can and should have the best of both worlds. Parties, gifts, eating and drinking anchor our Christmas in bodily pleasures. Excluding of course excessive drinking or drunk-driving which damage rather than build harmony, let yourself go in Christmas buying and selling, gift-giving, good works and family cheer.
Indeed, the gospel highlights the family-togetherness of Christmas. Mary goes to her cousin Elizabeth to share her joy. They experience mutual happiness in the children about to be born. And Elisabeth loves and supports this young saint trust into an onerous role, afraid and confused. Christmas is like that; its about family visiting and supporting relatives troubled or lonely. We do Christ’s work in uniting and comforting each other. And like that old rhyme, “please put a penny in the old man’s hat” lets help the poor too. For example, by putting something in the crib box; its contents will go to the Vincent De Paul to help families suffering during the recession. Mary carried Christ as a gift to all. Our gifts to the poor bring warmth and love to those who most need it. As scripture says: “this is the time of the Lord’s grace and favour”. Lets spread that favour around us. For the Christmas child is timeless lord of life, love and salvation for all people’s happiness in this world, as well as forever and ever, amen.
So as God’s people glorying in this feast of Christian light and joy to the world lets profess our faith with charitable hearts..

Prayers of the faithful
And as God’s family gathered in Christ and called to charity and faith now and throughout the year we pray for what we need..

For the church throughout the world, especially its leaders that full of Christmas joy they may radiate that joy to the world..

For our civil leaders that concentrating on the commercial benefits of Christmas they may not forget to respect also its spiritual dimension…

For our wonderful youth, may they appreciate their deliverance by Christ by practising their faith; and that those who have drifted from the church may come back into its great light this advent…

For ourselves that in our homes, work places and communities this advent and Christmas, that we may be a light of faith and love for our children and all those we associate with..

For the sick, the lonely, the aged and the troubled in body or soul, that through our prayers and caring love they may find peace, comfort and healing..

For the dead for whom the Christ opened heaven’s gates that helped by our prayers and remembrance they come to final peace..

We ask these prayers through Christ who came to us as a frail baby and will come again at last to answer all our prayers, amen.

St.Joseph is a much neglected saint. He never put himself forward, yet he played a key role in the incarnation. He saved Mary from being stoned to death as a single mother and he saved the child Jesus from Herod by taking the family across the desert to Egypt. Jesus must have loved him very much, for he spent 30 of his 33 years on earth in Joseph’s job as a carpenter. Lets pray to Joseph this advent and Christmas that we will be as faithful and loving in the service of the Lord as he was:
Jesus, Mary and Joseph I give you my heart and my soul.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph assist me in my last agony.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph may I breathe forth my soul in peace with you, amen.

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