In the Heartland With Bishop Pates: Busy, Busy This Holiday Season
by Bishop Pates | December 11, 2018
The code word that is abroad in these days before Christmas is busy. Activity ramps up fueled by shopping, exchange of cards and frequent parties. Much of this is good because it signals valuable human connections which give meaning to our lives.
Although I can identify with and even enjoy this busyness, I find it vital to take time to reflect on that which is foundational to our beliefs. It is coming to grips with God’s intervention which has changed the course of history, obviously but importantly my own. It is overwhelming to think of this God, responsible for the immensity of creation, stepping into time as one of us.
What is even more astonishing is that God does this purely out of love for each of us. He cares so much that he reaches beyond his self-sufficiency and engages us in relationship demonstrating the intrinsic value he attributes to each of us. It is in responding to this outreach that you and I come in touch with happiness, with a sense of peace, with being very comfortable in our own skins.
We talk about those things that are important to us. Everyone knows of our children and grandchildren, our interests and hobbies. Shouldn’t others also be aware of the centrality of Jesus in our lives?
Among the most satisfying memories of my service as a priest was when I had the good fortune of celebrating the 4 p.m. Christmas liturgy at St. Ambrose of Woodbury in Minnesota. It was a brand new parish with an average age of four. For that particular Mass, people would begin arriving at 2:30 p.m. to stake out their seats in a church that accommodated 1,500.
The focus of the Mass was when three hundred or so children gathered around me as I recounted the Christmas story, that very beautiful retelling of Jesus’ birth which stimulates our imagination. For the most part, the kids tuned in.
Following the Scripture reading, I inquired about what the young people were expecting this Christmas? They cited the popular toy of the year and other items that they expected Santa to grace them with. Eventually, we did get around to Jesus. They were excited to share what they knew of him and what his purpose was in coming to the world. They had firm hold of the revelation, confidently recounted it and put their fingers on its enduring legacy.
I then asked them for a favor – would they, in the next day or so, share that story with their grandpas and grandmas, with their aunts and uncles and especially with their cousins and good friends. Of course, they responded, they would! Being a trusting individual, I presumed they did.
I am fortunate because my job description entails telling the Christmas story as widely and as enthusiastically as I can. In so many ways, that is why I very much like what I do.
But as a Christian, you share with me the same job expectation. And this identity includes telling others about the incredible story of Christmas, sharing what is of consequence to you. Who will receive your outreach and when will you do it? It will surely be a new moment for the fortunate recipient of your conviction.
Merry Christmas, my friends! May 2019 unfold abundant blessings for you and your loved ones.