God is with Us
- Today in Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton
- First Sunday of Advent
- 2 December 2018
Adaptation is perhaps the single most important characteristic for the survivability of a species. Organisms must adapt and change in order to survive. Not unlike other forms of life, the Body of Christ has continued to adapt and also affect the environment in which she finds herself. It is a dynamic relationship that has trans- formed the Church and the world in ways that are both adversarial and symbolic. In the culture of our contemporary society, the holiday season is an excellent expression of the com- plex relationship between the Church and the world.
The belief that God has become a man is the critical factor that distinguishes Christianity from other world religions. With the doctrine of the incarnation, the possibility of change is ushered into the world in a whole new way. The old order of creation has no need to be destroyed and swept away – it can now be redeemed! The limits of time and death are now transformed into eternity and life. Everything has now changed! The birth of Jesus has accomplished the impossible – the infinite has become finite, so that the finite can now become infinite. Matter is redeemed and “in the flesh” we can actually see God with our own eyes. In the very early days of Christianity, these images of death and life, old and new, finite and infinite, trans- formation and redemption, were applied to the nearest metaphor of human culture that could support it. The feasts and festivals that surrounded the winter solstice were the best depiction of the incredible religious density of the Christian belief in the incarnation. It caught on like wildfire and spread across the world – through the ages, and into our own time.
The frenzy of the Christmas shopping season is not the enemy of Advent, and the distortion of Santa Claus does not really diminish the feast of St. Nicholas. These are merely cultural manifestations of the affect the Church has had on the pagan societies of centuries past…and generations present. The “city sidewalks, busy sidewalks, dressed in holiday style” are more opportunities for the Christian to stop complaining and celebrate the feeling of Christmas in the air. This is the time for evangelization, not confrontation. Turn-about is fair play. The
Christians were successful in co-opting the pagan feasts once upon a time. Although it might seem that commercialization might have turned those tables around, we must not forget that we do still call it – Christmas.
Blessing of the Advent Wreath (First week of Advent)
This celebration is intended for a simple Advent wreath blessing in the home. The family gathers around the wreath before the evening meals during this first week of Advent and makes the sign of the cross.
Leader: Let us pray.
O God, our Father in heaven, by your Word all things are made holy. Send forth your blessing upon this Advent wreath, and grant that we may prepare our hearts for the coming of your Son, Jesus. Stir up your might and come to us as our protector and liberator. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, our Messiah and Lord.
The first violet candle is lighted and left burning throughout the meal.
Saint Nicholas’ Day Blessing (December 6)
St. Nicholas is the source for many of our present Christmas customs, especially that of gift giving. He was born in what is now Turkey and was named bishop of Myra, a poor and rundown diocese. When his wealthy parents died, he gave his wealth to the poor and devoted himself to the conversion of sinners. His feast is an appropriate time to express the spiritual aspects of giving and sharing. This prayer could be used at the end of the meal on St. Nicholas Day.
Leader: We bless you, gracious Lord, on this feast of St. Nicholas, your servant, who is an example to us of a life of charity and faith. May we see in his life an invitation to imitate his good deeds and love for the poor. Make us always mindful of the needs of others and help us to rejoice in the abundance of your goodness around us. We ask this through Christ our Lord.
A special treat may be shared or small gifts may be exchanged among the family.