Appleton, WI

Dec 22: In Joy and Sorrow by Fr. Bill

I treasure Ann Weem’s book of poetry, Kneeling in Bethlehem, and make a point to take it off of my shelf every Christmas Season. This book has become a good guide to my prayer during this holy time of the year. In that spirit, here is Ms. Weem’s poem titled, “What Do I Want
For Christmas?”

What do I want for Christmas?
I want to kneel in Bethlehem,
the air thick with alleluias,
the angels singing
that God is born among us.
In the light of the Star,
I want to see them come,
the wise ones and the humble.
I want to see them come
bearing whatever they treasure
to lay at the feet of him who gives life.
What do I want for Christmas?
To see in that stable the whole world kneeling in thanks
for a promise kept: new life.
For in his nativity we find ours.

Let us all spend time this Christmas Season in silence and stillness before our nativity scenes in Church and in our homes. Don’t forget our Parish Family Window Nativity Scene as well! Parents and grandparents, bring our dear children before Jesus in the manger. Tell them the story of God’s great love for us. Our God, the Creator of Billions of Galaxies, has made God’s self so small so as to enter into our human nature. It would be as if you or I decided to make ourselves into goldfish, to hop into an aquarium, so to tell other goldfish some good news!

Saint Athanasius reminded us that our Good God became human, so that we might become divine. Christmas is about you and me becoming more like the Lord, knowing His Heart, and inviting the Lord to place His Heart into our hearts. Christmas is more than remembering something that happened a long time ago. Christmas is more than nostalgically remembering our childhoods. Christmas is more than children and grandchildren. Christmas is realizing that Jesus has entrusted us in our own time and place to bring his peace, joy, justice, and forgiveness into every situation in our lives. Christmas is about making the Lord’s love visible in our own lives. The Lord’s love is never selfish or manipulative; the Lord’s love is never controlling or quid pro quo. The Lord’s love is without boundaries, always inclusive, and always magnificent. We love each other as Jesus loved us.

On the First Sunday of Advent, Pope Francis wrote a beautiful meditation on the “enchanting image of the Christmas creche.” I would strongly encourage you to go on line, print it, and spend some time in prayer this Christmas Season letting the Holy Father guide you.” Referring to the starry background of the Nativity Scene, Pope Francis writes, “We can think of all those times in our lives when we have experienced the darkness of night. Yet even then, God does not abandon us, but is there to answer our critical questions about the meaning of life. Who am I? Where do I come from? Why was I born at this time in history? Why do I love? Why do I suffer? Why will I die?”

Pope Francis mentions the symbolic figures we place into our Nativity Scenes. “First there are the beggars and the others who know only the wealth of the heart…The poor are a privileged part of this mystery; often they are the first to recognize God’s presence in our midst…we are reminded that we cannot let ourselves be fooled by wealth and fleeting promises of happiness…By being born in a manger, God launches the only true revolution that can give hope and dignity to the disinherited and the outcast: the revolution of love, the revolution of

Looking to Mary and Joseph, “the birth of a child awakens joy and wonder; it sets before us the great mystery of life. Seeing the bright eyes of a young couple gazing at their newborn child, we can understand the feelings of Mary and Joseph, who, as they looked at the Infant Jesus, sensed God’s presence in their lives.”

During these holiest of days, may you experience the Lord’s tender closeness to you. Remember, too, that he entrusts you to share the Lord’s tender closeness with all those you love, as well as with those who are strangers to you.

Merry Christmas!
Father Bill +