Emmitsburg Council of Churches

Advent and Christmas

Father John J. Lombardi

I recently asked Kayla and Kiley, two beautiful girls visiting the Grotto recently with their Mom, What's the best thing about Christmas? They immediately said: Jesus. I then asked: Why did Jesus come into the world anyway? They quickly said: To save us from our sins. Their cheery faces not only made my day, but their loving Faith gave me hope.

These bright girls not only "knew their religion," they also knew their Savior and life's meaning. As they intimated, Christmas is not only about presents, it's about the Divine Presence. The children's parents love them enough to train their souls to love and follow God-and spread the Faith-even to priests!

"In times past God spoke in fragmentary ways. In these last He spoke through a Son Whom He made heir of all things and through whom He made the universe" (Heb 1:1-2).

At Christmas we celebrate that God really did break thru all the world's garbage, miscommunications and doubt regarding His love for us, and unquestionably gave us His only Son.

Recently visiting an addictions-treatment center-where people are very forthright about choosing bad and harmful things and, consequently, needing God to save them--I was struck by how many folks knew that beautiful Bible verse: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son and that whoever believes in Him may not perish but have eternal life" (Jn. 3:16). We are perishing without God; with Him, however, we are saved from evil, Hell and despair.

And so, to honor the Christ and Christmas, sometime soon prayerfully read Saints Matthew's and Luke's Gospels-the fist two chapters of each--for the Infancy Narratives, about the Birth of the Messiah. Below are scriptural citations and, following the ellipsis (…), meditations on them. When you read this you can understand the insight into the mystery of Christ (Eph. 3:4).


The archangel Gabriel (meaning God's medicine) said: "She (Mary) will give birth to a Son and you (St. Joseph) will name Him Emmanuel" (Mt. 2:23). The Name Emmanuel means "God is with us." …+Do you realize that God is with us in a new way He wasn't before--by becoming Incarnate (en-fleshed--"And the word became flesh and dwelt among us-and we have received His glory"-Jn. 1:14). Realize Jesus present when you pray; when you see Him enjoy His creation; and when you "practice the presence of God"-thru continual, small, loving prayers-in all your activities by a constant conversation...How will you continue to seek, find Him and embrace Him in all places and times?

"While they (Mary and Joseph) were there the time came for her to have child (Lk.2: 6)…Jesus was born in Bethlehem" (Mt. 2:1)...Bethlehem means House of Bread. Remember that Jesus said: "I am the Bread of Life, come down from Heaven" (Jn. 6:41)…Do you make frequent attempts to receive Him in Mass, and pray to Him in adoration-meditation? Do you lovingly persevere, even despite distractions, after Communion? Remember: amidst the cold night, animals and many wants, Mary and Joseph adored Him!


Why is the Virgin Mary known as the "First and Perfect Disciple"? Read on…When the Archangel Gabriel greeted her, naturally, the Blessed Virgin Mary was troubled (Lk. 1:29), but then she heard the angelic counsel: "Be not afraid" (v. 30); and then let God's power rest upon her (vs. 35), and responded, "Be it done unto me according to Your word" (Lk. 1:39)… +Ask yourself: How can I let go of any and all fears of following Jesus or accepting His Will? How can I offer God the purity of my soul, like Mary, and so intersect, in my seeming mundane time and space, with God's mystical begetting of the Son in eternity? For we are called, as Bible-believing Christians, to have Jesus and the Divine Trinity not only above us, but also within us. St Paul counsels: "God chose to make known the riches of His glory-it is Christ in you" (Col 1:27).

And Mary said: "My soul magnifies the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior" (Lk. 1:46). How can I do what Mary exemplifies here- exult and transmit God in all my activities? -there may be no better way to prepare for, and celebrate, Christmas.

"Mary treasured all these things (mysteries of God), reflecting on them in her heart" (Lk. 2:18)…Mary inspires us to be contemplatives-people who treasure and love the Lord by meditating upon Him within. Cultivate devotion to the Mother of God-by praying the Rosary and by being like her, Jesus' disciple.


He was prudent (cf. Mt. 1:19), faithful (Mt.2:14), and a quiet disciple-he did his duties simply and unassumingly. St Joseph calls us to be faithful in mundane duties, doing them with great love (as St. Therese counseled), knowing that, however small or insignificant, these loving deeds may propel and promote God's plan of salvation.. Ask him to help you , your family, and you fulfill all your duties.

Angels-Angels are beings of light, and pure movement that connect the Heavenly world with ours, and show us God uses many different creatures--a hierarchy and chain of beings--to further His plan of Salvation… "An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph" (Mt. 1:20). The word angel means messenger, and carries God's tidings to the human world….How can I cultivate devotion to God's creatures-my guardian angel (cf. Jesus describing celestial creatures interconnecting with in the Mystical Body: Mt. 18:10). When we venerate angels, we give them honor and thereby worship God.

Angels often announce: "Be not afraid" (Lk. 2:8), to dispel the natural fears we all have in following God's plan (saints realize: "perfect love casts out fear"-I Jn 4:18) . The angels' main purpose-and ours'-is to announce: "Glory to God in the Highest" (Lk. 2:14).


"There were some Shepherds in that part of the country who were spending the night in the fields, tending the flocks" (Lk. 2:8)…The shepherds represent, especially in Luke's Gospel, that the poor and uneducated of the world (anawim, in Hebrew), are included in God's plan of Salvation…As Catholics and Christians, then, we don't need Ph.D's to follow Jesus, we need only hearts that please…We see, later, the shepherds pleased God by giving to the Divine Child (v15), and then spreading the Message of Good News to others (2.17)…How can I pay homage to the Child King-- in humble ways (kneeling, prostrating), and humbling circumstances (serving others, praying for enemies)? How can I spread His message in an often-unwelcoming world?


"Behold, Magi from the East arrived in Jerusalem, saying, Where is the newborn King of the Jews (Mt.2:2).

They prostrated and did Him homage, then they opened their treasures and offered Him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And…they departed for their country by another way." Mt. 2:11-12)…+Do you still deeply seek Jesus Christ-the height and breath of His riches (cf Eph. 3:18)-or do you feel you know Him, and have responded to Him, totally and already? Having met Him, are you traveling by a different, spiritual route? Consider that the gift of gold for you might be the most important thing in your life-giving God your heart and soul. Frankincense may represent your prayers rising to Heaven on a frequent, daily loving basis. Myrrh may be the loving perfumed of acts of mercy to other people.

STAR: The astrologers said: "We saw His star when it came upon in the East" (Mt. 2.2)… This possibly shows us God can use, recycle and regenerate anything in His marvelous universe and plan of salvation-even stars! It also can represent God turning creation back to Him after the Fall, and the curse upon creation (Gn 3:17).

"The Magi saw the star and it went ahead of them until it came and stopped over the place" (Mt. 2.9). God's creation, though distorted by sin, is ordered to Himself, and continues in his being (cf Col. 1:16); if viewed rightly, it leads us to him. The star is also the brilliance of God (Ps 36: "In Your light, O God, we see light"), and illumines the darkness of life. (The psalmist also says: "Your word is a lamp unto my feet, O Lord."). Jesus Christ later says in His public ministry: "I am the Light of the world" (Jn. 8:12)…How can I partake of and embrace the Light of God more in my life by avoiding dark things like sin, inordinate attachments and unhealthy living? How can I study His word-in the Bible-and His teachings in the Church-on a more frequent basis, desiring truth like a sponge absorbs water? How can I help other persons-lovingly-who are confused and lost, to seek and find truth in Jesus Christ and His Catholic unity? How can I avoid--and help others do the same--in confusing the Creator with His creatures (cf Rm. 1:24:where St Paul describes, unbelievers who exchanged worship of God to creatures).

Some Christmas Conclusions. Deification: St Augustine said: "God became man that man might become God." (cf. 2 Pt. 1:4-on participation in the Divine Nature by grace) I.e., How can I become more like God-in all my thoughts, words and deeds?

Prayers of the Liturgical Season

Notice the Mass prayers in the present tense, as if the Birth of Jesus has just occurred, is still occurring (time is mystical as well as linear). This is called anamnesis: a dynamic re calling or spiritual recollection so we re-live the sacred event to embrace it anew, more deeply, and to access, link and harmonize us with the original event itself (just as all Masses we are somehow re-united to the first Mass of Jesus)…El Divino Nino: the Spanish have beautiful devotion to the Divine Child. How can you cultivate a healthy love for the Child King? Perhaps you can accept the Child in ways you find difficult in receiving the God-Man and Judge of the Universe. Let Him into your heart thru this Divine Manifestation of the Infant King!...

Other Christmas Activities:

Revisit your Christmas Manger: this custom, attributed to St Francis-he supposedly used live animals and figures in his crèche-was originally meant to worship the Christ Child. Remember the Reason for the Season. Pray at your manger: Come, let us adore Him!

Frequent Mass during Christmas Week. The Day after Christmas is the Feast of St Stephan, First Martyr. Though this may seem odd -celebrating a martyr's death immediately after Christmas, it isn't. The red-blood color synthesizes with the colors of Christmas, and this man who really spilled his blood for the Child-King can both inspire and recall us back into reality, especially after secularized cheer and materialism. Also, the inspiring readings-of Stephen's "face looking like an angel" (cf. Act. 6: 15) right before his death, can help us all to witness Jesus as Our King…Friday is the Feast of St. John the Evangelist. He is represented in sacred art by an eagle, because his Gospel is so soaring and ethereal in language, drama and doctrine. He is also the author of the Book of Revelation/Apocalypse, and three Epistles. For Christmas meditate upon his unparalleled prologue, St. Jn. 1: 1-16

Now it's Christmas - this Wednesday, so don't forget to celebrate until Christmas Season ends on the Baptism of the Lord, Jan. 12, a.d. 2003. Oh, those initials, A.D., stand for Anno Domini, the Year of our Lord, used since an ancient era when people measured time from the Birth of Jesus Christ. Some historians, agnostics, secularists today want to use the initials "b.c.e" and "c.e." to refer, respectively to "before the Christian era" and "in the Christian era" to remove Christ's Name from history … He is Lord and King of all history!

May you and all your loved ones have a blessed and Merry Christmas!

Briefly Noted

Quote: "Christmas is not a date. It is a state of mind." Mary E. Chase

New Year's Virgin Mary's Vigil: On Dec. 31- we will have Prayer-Adoration from 9-11pm; 11pm Mass and then 12 Midnight benediction-all are welcome! This is

Read other reflections by Father John J. Lombardi