When we see a Nativity set we can immediately identify the key players: Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the shepherds with their sheep as well as the obligatory cow oblivious to what is going on. We also encounter the three strangely over-dressed visitors who seem so out of place for such a humble spot. The song we sing calls them three kings yet that misses the mark.
When was the last time someone promised you something that was never fulfilled? … Or how many times have you made promises that you never kept? It seems to me that the readings during these days speak to us about promises… but promises that have been fulfilled!
“Today is born our Savior, Christ the Lord.” The Church proclaims these words in the refrain of the Responsorial Psalm for the Night Mass of Christmas. We hear these words each year and we are invited once again to ponder the mystery of God becoming one with us in Jesus.
Over the years we reminisce about our childhood and the “magical” season of Christmas. We pestered our parents to tell us one-more-time the story of the Wise Men (Magi) coming from far distant lands in search of a king foretold by the stars. Many could not wait until their parents set-up the family crèche. Each day throughout Advent we would move the Wise Men a little closer to the cave where the baby Jesus would appear on Christmas day.
One of my fondest childhood memories is of my Dad teaching me how to ride a bike on the church parking lot. In retrospect, a paved venue was probably a poor choice, considering the number of times I came in sudden contact with the ground, and also given that this was well before the days of protective headwear. Still, it was a wonderful experience...
Among my favorite Christmas stories is one that has little direct connection to Bethlehem or angels and shepherds, or carols or even Hallmark movies. Rather, it’s an episode from the television series “Everybody Loves Raymond.” Raymond, the favored son of the family, decides to give his parents the gift of a toaster for Christmas, inscribed with a message of love from his wife, his children and himself.
In the study of behavioral analysis, there is a theory that positive reinforcement is an effective way to increase the probability of a particular desirable behavior to be repeated or continued. Today we celebrate the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, the last day of the liturgical season of Christmas. In the Gospel of Luke, we hear of the tremendous and fascinating account of Jesus being baptized by John.
The liturgy of the word for the Solemnity of the Epiphany begins with the reading from the prophet Isaiah. The reading begins, “Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick clouds cover the peoples; but upon you the Lord shines, and over you appears his glory.”
Upon entering a house during the Christmas season, we always take note of a few things, the various lights and decorations, most especially the Christmas tree and how it is decorated. Usually somewhere around the house, displayed somewhere in a prominent place, is a Nativity set. They come in various shapes, sizes, colors, cultures. But what makes up a Nativity set, what is essential for the Nativity scene?
A few years back, when I was in graduate school, I was invited to a Christmas party at the home of a professor. My intention, as with most parties, was to get in and out as quickly as possible, but this time I found myself having a pleasant conversation with another student, a young woman named Rose. We chatted politely about classes and teachers and current events, but then we found a common passion in music.