Dear Parish Family,
We certainly have many blessings to be thankful for this Christmas. We are grateful to the Lord that we can travel again and gather with our families and loved ones to celebrate the wonderful occasion of the birth of Christ. Last week, our school conducted their Christmas concert, which filled the church to capacity. Our children’s families, which included their grandparents, aunts and uncles, came from different places to show their love, support, and appreciation for the children. They did an excellent job singing Christmas carols in seven different languages, including Tagalog from the Philippines! The audience was delighted with their presentation and showed their support and affection.
The children’s performances and their songs captured the optimism, joy, and hope of Christmas. All of them pointed to what truly brings the joy of the season. They were about loving our families, keeping in touch with our happy childhood memories, inspiring us to do good things for the poor, sharing our gifts and talents with others, and forgiving and extending support to those we have hurt. All of these highlight the spirit and the marvelous truth of Christmas — Jesus Christ the Son of God is born and is in our midst. He accompanies us in our fears and struggles, and He celebrates with us in our joy.
This Christmas is my first Christmas as your spiritual shepherd. Being here at St. Vincent’s is the greatest Christmas gift for me this year. Your prayers, support and kindness are inspiring. My day is always filled with hope and joy as I begin another opportunity of serving God through you. Please continue to pray for my strength and health as I continue to lead our parish. Together, we can see and feel more intensely God’s love and presence in our lives.
The truth is that while Christmas is showing our love for one another and for God, more importantly, it shows us how much God loves us.
The beautiful decorations, including the beautiful trees, the magnificent life-size manger and the marvelous lightings that you see at our church are all good. The decorations are part of capturing the sparks of life. They are external manifestations that draw us to the eternal. They connect us to our Tradition. The effort of putting the decorations together, of giving presents, and of preparing and sharing food together brings us to our humanity. However, let us push beyond the joys and beauties that surround us and see beneath them our God who always loves us. The marvelous acts of God can only be seen with eyes that are connected to hearts that are filled with love and faith. This is the reason why we prepared ourselves spiritually for Christmas: to clean our hearts to receive God. The dwelling place of the baby Jesus is a heart that is pure. In the same way, God chose Mary, who is free from the stain of sin, to carry the child Jesus in her womb.
Christmas is about opening our hearts to receive the greatest gift of all — Jesus. Christmas is about God’s action and initiative. Those who find the deeper joy of Christmas are those who believe that God’s gifts and promises will always be there for us. When Christ is in our life, our sadness is turned into joy, despair into hope and turmoil into peace.
I remember, during the height of the Corona virus pandemic, I received a call from a hospital asking me if I could give the “last rites” to a patient in ICU who was dying of COVID. The family had requested the hospital to allow a priest to come and anoint their father. He had requested from them that a priest be called to administer the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick before he dies. The family was in distress, especially because they were not able to visit their loved one in the hospital as part of the many restrictions during the pandemic. They found peace and comfort through the Sacrament with God’s message of love and forgiveness. Jesus brought healing to them and made sense of their sufferings.
Like the Christmas season, our life changes and we go back to our normal routines. At some point, the trees will be taken away; the manger set will be put in boxes; and family members will go back to their homes. People in our lives always come and go. But God remains. Jesus remains. The truth that God always remains in us is the essence of Christmas.
God bless you!