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DECEMBER 18, 2016

Christmas shopping, though fun, can be difficult. Did you hear about the guy that bought his wife a beautiful diamond ring for Christmas? A friend of his said, "I thought she wanted one of those sporty 4-Wheel drive vehicles." "She did," he replied. "But where am I gonna find a fake Jeep?"

Have you ever heard these negative comments: Christmas is nothing but a big spending spree; malls can't wait to get their hands on our wallets! This is one of the worst times of the year for many. Depression before the holiday arrives as faithfully as credit card bills arrive after it. Think of cards, gifts, toys, decorations, food and drink; Christmas raises false hopes, especially among the poor, and the lonely; instead of bringing us together, Christmas makes ants out of us, fighting each other for the best bargains; Christmas puts more pressure on husband and wife, that means there are more separations and more divorces at this time; Christmas does a disservice to our religion; it’s getting less Christian every year; it’s a pagan feast.  It’s a waste of time, effort and money…so on.  And besides, it’s hard to find historical evidence about his birth…

Do you agree with these comments?  Well, sometimes I thought so, but Christmas also has its positive effects in our lives.

Christmas recalls the greatest event of all time: the Incarnation of Christ.  His birth happened in human history but only the grace of God can make us believers.  Millions still deny it and overlook it. But for us, God’s Son came to bring us peace and live among us.  Jesus is the King of Peace.   Now at this Christmas, there is still war in the world, but Christians all over pray for peace and hopefully it will come with the Lord.

Of course there is a lot of loneliness at Christmas, but Christ comes to share this loneliness with us.  It is when we are lonely that we can reach out to him and bring him to others who are lonelier than we are.  There is also a great deal of togetherness at Christmas.  There is a great out-pouring of goodwill.  People we have forgotten during the rest of the year are remembered.  Scattered families are reunited. Coming home for Christmas is one of the best traditions we have in Canada.

The poor are more taken care of at this time of year than any other time.  Christmas encourages generosity and gives people an opportunity to share with the less fortunate.  We do it at the very beginning of Advent.  The annual Gift Sharing Sunday is a chance for us to put our friends in need first.  Thank you for doing it.

I admit that there are some excesses in eating and drinking.  Do you have difficulty to control indulgences of food and drink?  But it is right that people should be happy and celebrate at this time (Remember Moderation is a Virtue!).  Christ comes among us with his gifts of hope, joy, peace and light.  It is no time for long faces.

I don’t agree for one moment that Christmas is devoid of religious meaning.  I think it acts as a great spiritual tonic for many people.  The churches are overflowing.  Many prodigals come back for good (at least for a day).  But even one day, they experience the warmth of God’s house, God’s love and God’s community.  Many non-Christians may question, who is it that we celebrate, and through the grace of God, they may come to know him.

Someone says, “Christmas has no room for Christ.  But let us never forget that there was no room for him either the first time he came.  The inn-keeper refused to take him in, he still came anyway for those who were waiting for him.  Even if our world has little room for Christ, he still comes.  He comes to all those who, like Mary, Joseph and the shepherds, are ready to welcome him.  He will come to us too.  All we need is to make a little space for him in the manger of our heart.

Christmas is also a time to give thanks.  First of all we thank God for the gift of Jesus.  That gift is the most precious of all.  Then we thank the people who have done good things to us or have good impacts on our lives.  As a pastor, I would like to thank all of you for continually supporting this parish.  I thank all volunteers in all ministries.  The parish wouldn’t be healthy like this without you.  With you, my pastoral work is much easier.  Thank you for your prayers, your support and your love.

We thank the people who have decorated the church beautifully; I thank those who prepare and attend the Philippines Simbang Gabi Mass; those who share their treasure with the poor in Medicine Hat, in Mexico, kids and lepers in Vietnam, and those who spend their Advent and Christmas time to care for the new foreign workers and immigrants.  May the Child Jesus bless you all!


Merry Christmas and Happy New Year