Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Jesus is born, but have we found Him yet? ...Music for the 4th Sunday of Advent

Hello St. Francis,
This week's reflection is a prayerful response to an article I read by Dr. Chris Anthony of Catholic Online.  It speaks of the true hope of Christmas.  I pray that this message will remain with you throughout this season.

Christmas is a commemoration of God's coming into the world. He came for all of us - believers and non-believers alike. His birth should bring us hope and triumph which will dispel the sadness from our lives. But after years of celebrating Christmas after Christmas many of us are yet to see that triumph in our lives and our hopes may be giving way to despair. Has the Messiah really come? If He has where is He? Why doesn't He bring the triumph that dispels sadness? 

The real problem today is that we are waiting for God to literally come to us. Sometimes I think we can celebrate His birth just like that of any one of us - offering prayers, eating, drinking and making merry. Our world does celebrate his coming  but do we really welcome Him into our hearts and lives? 

Yes, He has come into the world and is very much in our midst but sometimes we do not recognize Him.  

By being born to poor parents, in an environment of extreme poverty, Jesus is telling us where He dwells - not in places of majesty and glamour but among the poor and the downtrodden, the sick and dying, the hungry, the oppressed and in those we love and even in those we hate. In short He is among those that are often seen only in quickly passing; the marginalized, the forgotten, the "unimportant".

Amidst our celebrations this Christmas, let us pause a while to look around us to recognize that Jesus who was born into the world two thousand years ago. He is among us in every person and in every trial and tribulation we encounter in our lives. Let us take a moment to look around to recognize Him in those who do not have joy and peace in their lives. 

Let us do the little within our means to alleviate the pain and misery in their lives. Let us do whatever we can to give them the hope that triumph will one day wipe out the sadness in the hearts. 

We too, like Jesus, must have the humility to come down from our positions of comfort and power to meet Him in the people around us. If we isolate ourselves from others by building a fortress around us with all our wealth and power together with greed, selfishness and pride, then we can keep waiting for Jesus all our lives but it will only be in vain. 

When our eyes and hearts are opened to those around us, our Christmas will begin to take on a deeper meaning.  It will not be just another day to celebrate, eat, drink and make merry. Instead, it will  become the day when hope, peace, love and community truly begin to be born in us.  On this day, we shall truly celebrate, we shall truly sing of the unimaginable love of the Incarnation of God and when that happens our hearts, our homes and our communities will be born again in the miracle of Christmas. 


See you soon,
Jim

Music for the 4th Sunday of Advent

Monday, December 5, 2016

SANTA IS THE MAN!!!!

Hello St. Francis,
I hope this message finds you stress free and spiritually prepared for the coming of Christ at Christmas!!!  Yup, me neither.  Still running around like my hair is on fire trying to make all of the last minute preparations.  As a Music Minister, this time of the year takes on a whole new set of stresses, but I would be naive to think that my stresses are more stressful than yours.  As a matter of fact, have you found yourself in that conversation yet?  Two people facing off to see who has the most to do!!!  "I have 73 people coming and I don't know where my tree topper is and I have to wait in a 14 hour line at the store and then it closed and....."  "You think that is bad well...blah...blah...blah..."  You know what, it's a tie!!! Everyone is stressed!!!  The good news is that regardless of whether you cook the very best Christmas roast of all time, or whether you remembered to send all 14,000 Christmas Cards or whether the neighbor has better lights than you do, in just a few days, Good Ol' Santa will be moseying his extra large bag of toys into town.  Thank God!!!  It's over.  

Not to sound judgmental but I don't understand how people can dislike Christmas or this time of year.  Is it busy?  Yes.  Does it drive you nuts?  You bet it does.  Are people who dislike this time of year afraid that they are on Santa's naughty list?  What would the big guy from the North Pole tell you?  Ho! Ho! Ho! Yes, I think he would laugh at our stress.  Does that statement make you hot enough to melt Frosty?  So let me give you this disclaimer before the following statement...No one cares how perfectly your packages are wrapped or whether your Christmas shindig is the best of ALL TIME!!!  So, why do we place our Christmas spirit in those things?  Shouldn't it just be...I don't know, FUN!!!!!

Our Jolly Old St. Nick may have the answer...indulge me here.

S stands for solidarity.  Stand together to serve others and appreciate the traditions of your family and faith.
A stands for appreciate.  More appreciation = Less scepticism
N stands for neighbor.  Tell them that you love them (or at least fake it till you make it)
T stands for Tears.  Let yourself be open to the true emotion of this time
A stands for adaptable.  Don't sweat the small stuff.

In the end, Santa Claus is coming to town and he won't leave coal in our stocking if his cookies are a little burnt or if those stockings aren't perfectly matched.  The only coal in our stocking are the pieces that we put in ourself.  Loosen up!!! Santa Claus Is Coming To Town!!!

MUSIC FOR DECEMBER 10TH AND 11TH