January 6, 2019

Since our Christmas celebrations began on the evening of December 24th, we have been exploring and “unpacking” the meaning of this great feast. The truth we celebrate at Christmas is almost too much for us to take in all at once. We believe, and we celebrate, that God has come among us as a human being.

There are many aspects to this truth that we are called to reflect on over the course of the Christmas Season. There are significant weekday, as well as Sunday and Holy Day celebrations that help us to reflect on the implications of God coming to us as a human being.

The very day after Christmas, December 26th, we celebrate the feast of the first martyr of the Church, St. Stephen. Stephen was killed for witnessing to Jesus as the Risen Lord and Messiah. We can feel a kind of emotional and spiritual whiplash when we celebrate this feast. We are fresh from wonderful celebrations of light and life on Christmas Day, and then we gather and commemorate the darkness that is in peoples’ hearts that can lead them to kill another because of religious convictions. The message is clear. The wood of the manger leads to the wood of the cross - for Jesus and for his followers.

Two days later, after celebrating the Feast of St. John, Apostle and Evangelist, we once again turn to the cost of discipleship - even unconscious discipleship. The Feast of the Holy Innocents on December 28th remembers those children killed by Herod as he searched for the child Jesus. Once again, these Holy Innocents bring a seriousness to our Christmas Season celebrations. And while St. Stephen is the first martyr of the Church, these Holy Innocents are the first martyrs to die for Jesus.

The Feast of the Holy Family is our first Sunday feast after Christmas and it celebrates that God came among us in Jesus in a particular place and time, and in a particular family. Family life - the nurturing of Mary and Joseph - becomes a model for all of our families.

After lingering over the mind-boggling reality of God becoming a human being, along with the joyful and sorrowful implications of that event, we turn toward the divinity of Jesus and celebrate that it is too limiting to call Mary the mother of Jesus. She is certainly that, but she is also, because of her cooperation with God’s plan, the Mother of God. This further manifestation of who Jesus is continues to unpack our Christmas celebration. So we gather on New Year’s Day to give praise and thanks to God for the Mother of His only begotten Son.

This weekend, we gather for the Solemnity of the Epiphany, and celebrate how Christ’s coming is for every human being. He did not come to just offer salvation and new life to a small group of people, but to the whole world. The travelers from the East in today’s Gospel make clear that they have heard the message and come to pay homage to this newborn King.

Finally, next Sunday, we conclude our Christmas Season with the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. This concluding feast of the Christmas Season puts an exclamation point on what we have been unpacking over these weeks. As Jesus emerges from the water of the Jordan, the voice of God is heard, saying “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

I hope you can take time to enjoy these great celebrations of the season. May these days of the Christmas Season, and our liturgical celebrations, draw us ever more deeply into the life of our God who comes to us in Jesus of Nazareth.

God Bless,
Fr. Gary Lazzeroni