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Pastor's Column

Meditating on the Manger

Pastor’s Column

December 25, 2021

Photo by Burkay Canatar from Pexels

For many Americans, we have entered the “holiday season”, the “sparkle season” or the “winter solstice”. For them, “Christmas” begins after Halloween and ends as soon as the presents are opened and dinner is finished, if the word Christmas is used at all. We seem to be surrounded by “holiday” trees and fewer and fewer Nativity scenes. The canned Christmas music in stores is almost never religious anymore (have you noticed this?).The religious Christmas stamp is imperiled. That’s because our culture is interested only in selling us things. Therefore, we must make an effort to find the real meaning of these days.

For Catholics, the (religious) Christmas season begins on Christmas Eve and extends all the way to the Baptism of the Lord in January. By that time, the stores already have Valentines’ Day merchandise out! How can we reclaim this season for ourselves, as it was intended to be? It is not always possible to keep the Christmas tree up through the second week of January, but every Catholic family should have some kind of nativity scene in their home. There is so much wisdom to be found by reflecting on the circumstances of Christ’s birth.

Christ was born into poverty. These days, there are so many homeless right here in Salem. The food banks are overflowing with those needing assistance. Suddenly, the humble circumstances of Christ’s birth take on new meaning for many people. Christ will especially be found among those who are in great need. Why not make a donation of food or money to the local food bank for Christmas, and cut down on expensive trappings at home?

The Holy Family had to flee to Egypt. This meant Joseph was out of a job. He had to provide for his family’s needs by accepting the charity of others and looking for work once they arrived in the Jewish community in Egypt. Many of us, too, will be far away from home this Christmas. Because of Covid, travel may be difficult and irritating. Actually, all of us are refugees because our true home is in heaven. Christ, teaches us not to become too settled in one place. He also won’t let his friends become too comfortable! Unsettling times and moving on are also part of God’s plan for us.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph didn’t have a lot of stuff. How could they when they had to travel to Bethlehem and then to Egypt? Why not make a sweep of the house, eliminating useless clutter. If you are feeling a bit overwhelmed by life right now (and who isn’t?), offer the Lord your poverty and misery. He came as a humble, poor child to take on our poverty and give you a share in his divinity. What a deal! We can reclaim the real meaning of Christmas if we really want to.

Father Gary


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