A CHRISTMAS MESSAGE from St. Matthew’s Parish
Christmas starts on 24 December with the Christmas Vigil Mass – and not a minute before! It’s difficult to remember this when shops have been ‘doing’ Christmas since the summer, it seems! It’s a pity when Christmas celebrations begin too soon and we lose the significance of the very rich season which continues for just over two weeks after Christmas Day.
Christmas, like Easter, is such major occasion that it has an Octave – an entire week – which is effectively Christmas each day. At the end of the Octave, New Year’s Day, we celebrate the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, which reminds us that Jesus, totally human and totally God, was born into a human family and brought up in the Jewish Tradition of his parents. The Feast reminds us that Mary, witnessing the extraordinary events following her baby’s birth, treasured all these things and pondered them.
Normally the Sunday between Christmas and New Year’s Day is the Feast of the Holy Family. This year Christmas falls on Monday, and so on the Sunday following, 31 December, we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family. This is no sentimental feast: the Gospel for the Holy Family is the story of Jesus’ life in danger from King Herod. He and his family have to flee to Egypt until after Herod’s death.
In today’s terminology, Jesus is an at-risk child and his family are displaced persons living in a foreign land as refugees. The Feast of the Epiphany tells of visitors from the East who followed a star, and come with lavish gifts of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh. It falls on Sunday 7 January this year.
Christmas is still not over. The final event is not about the infant Jesus: it’s about the adult Jesus at the start of his ministry. At baptism, Jesus immersed himself in water (baptism literally means immersion) as a sign of his commitment to, and immersion in God’s will. This is the perfect note on which to conclude Christmas: the Son of God who came as a human child grows up, and is on the threshold of proclaiming the Kingdom of Heaven in word and action, and establishing it through his Death and Resurrection. The Baptism of the Lord this year is on Monday 8 January.
Have a Happy and Holy Christmas, and may you be fully drawn into the fullness of the Joy of this immensely rich season,
Fr. Robert J. Hill,
Parish Priest, St. Matthew’s
December 2017/January 2018