Appleton, WI

Jan 12: In Joy and Sorrow by Fr. Bill

One last time, I’d like to turn to Ann Weems and her book of Christmas poetry, titled Kneeling in Bethlehem.

I must admit a certain guilt about stuffing the Holy Family into a box in the aftermath of Christmas.

It’s frankly a time of personal triumph when, each Advent’s eve, I free them (and the others) from a year’s imprisonment boxed in the dark of our basement. Out they come, one by one struggling through the straw, lasy year’s tinsel still clinging to their robes. Nevertheless, they appear, ready to take their place again in the light of another Christmas.

The Child is first because he’s the one I’m most reluctant to box. Attached forever to his cradle, he emerges, apparently unscathed from the time he spent upside down to avoid the crush of th elid. His mother, eternally dressed blue, still gazes adoringly, in spite of the fact that her features are somewhat smudged. Joseph has stood for eleven months, holding valiantly what’s left of his staff, broken twenty Christmases ago by a child who hugged a little too tightly. The Wise Ones still travel, through not quiet so elegantly, the standing camel having lost its back leg and the sitting camel having lost one ear. However, gifts intact, they are ready to move. The shepherds, walking or kneeling, sometimes confused with Joseph (who wears the same dull brown) tumble forth, followed by three sheep in very bad repair. There they are again, not a grand set surely, but one the children (and now grandchildren) can touch and move about to reenact that silent night.

When the others return, we will wind the music box on the back of the stable and light the Advent candles and go once more to Bethlehem.

And this year, when it’s time to pack the figures away, we’ll be more careful that the Peace and Goodwill are not also boxed for another year!

I am so grateful to the many hands and hearts that contributed to the beauty of our celebration of the Advent and Christmas Seasons. From our promise to have room at the inn during our Appleton Christmas Parade to the beautiful telling of the Christmas Story in our Parish Center windows, from the beauty of our Church and the wonderful lifting of many voices in song during our liturgies, led by our choirs and cantors, to the challenge of our Homily Message Series, Entrusted: Thy Kingdom Come and from the people who gathered at Lou’s Brew Coffee House and other places to explore further the Advent homilies to the wonderful Xavier High School Christmas Concert and the calm and peaceful live Nativity Scene, it was truly a blessed Advent and Christmas!

Let’s remember not to keep the Lord boxed up in our hearts this New Year, but rather to open our hearts wide, and through our words and deeds, let loose Jesus and His Kingdom of Peace and Goodwill into every place. Our world so much hungers for Jesus’ Peace and Joy! Thanks to all who were part of our Holy Day Celebrations and that includes you!

Father Bill +