24 Dec


The crowds stream into the church on Christmas day. Still twenty minutes before Mass is to start and already the pews are filled. Quickly the aisles are filled with those forced to stand. Latecomers are forced to pile into the vestibule; still others are forced to participate in the celebration in the cold.

Sitting in the pew waiting for Mass to begin, I hear congregants grumble about the “twice-a-yearers,” the folks who supposedly grace the steps of the church only on Christmas and Easter.

“Good thing we got here early to get a seat – the twice-a-yearers are out today.”

“Where will these people be next week?”

“It’s so hot and crowded in here. Why do these people even bother coming?”

“Look at all those people who don’t even have church envelopes.”

“I don’t even recognize half these people.”

“People are still coming – communion is gonna take forever.”

I confess to having been among the grumblers on occasion. Mass has not even started and already bitterness and judgment fill the church.

Soon enough, though, the words of the Gospel are spoken.

They tell the story of the birth of Christ. The unmarried woman who said yes to God when the angel Gabriel announced she was with child. The carpenter who took this soon-to-be mother as his wife. The lowly stable where the Son of God was born.

Did Mary judge God’s will for her?

Did Joseph judge Mary and her impending child?

Did the shepherds judge the stable as a place unfitting the arrival of the Savior?

No, they did not judge. Rather, they had faith.

And with faith comes the arrival of Christ.

10 Dec

Listening to God

I sometimes think we forget to listen to God because we think his time is spent talking to the truly important people. The saints. The mystics. The prophets.

We have it in our minds that God speaks our language and that if he wants to speak to us he’ll literally knock us off our horse like Paul and tell us to get our act together. The Bible stories of our youth have imbedded in us the notion that a voice will come from a burning bush or from the clouds, and that the voice will speak only to privileged, bearded old men like Moses, David and Job.

But God speaks to us all. The only difference between the bearded clan of the Old Testament and us is that they heard, and they answered. We don’t know the names of the nameless who never heard, or those that heard but never answered, precisely for that very reason.

These old men heard, though, because they listened. To hear, one must listen. And to listen, one must be silent. Often we take silence to mean that God is silent. We are uncomfortable with the absence of noise, and jump at the first opportunity to create it.

Silence, however, is simply the beginning of conversation with God.

01 Dec

Seasons greetings

The mailbox is full today, as it has been often these days with the approaching holiday. Within the many Christmas greetings, though, there are always one or two annual family updates that spout off all the wonderful things the family accomplished in the last year. More often than not, humility is lacking.

I wonder where this tradition started. Did Mary and Joseph send out the first pretentious Christmas year-in-review?

“Dear Friends, the carpentry business is going gangbusters. Mary is still without sin. Oh, and by the way, we’re happy to inform you that this year we became the proud parents of the Son of God!”

Has the humility of the manger taught us nothing?