Faith & Life


By JOAN PATTEN, AO     12/19/2023

Where is your heart resting this Christmas?

Some of us may be finishing a marathon of Christmas activities with family, friends and work. Others may be mourning the loss of a loved one and find it difficult even to imagine engaging in additional tasks such as decorating, baking, shopping and gatherings. Still, others may find their recent experiences somewhat “ordinary,” filled with routines and traditions that are familiar and treasured every year.

Wherever you find yourself, it is in these particular circumstances that Our Lord desires to be born into this year. Throughout Advent, we prayed, “Come, Lord Jesus,” seeking to invite Him into every moment of our lives. When Jesus comes into any reality, He brings His truth, freedom, light, peace and direction.

His presence always invites our response of adoration: “O Come, let us adore Him!” Christmas falls on a Monday this year, making the fourth week of Advent last about twenty-four hours. The Fourth Sunday of Advent begins after 4 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 23, and ends at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 24, as the vigil for Christmas starts at that time.

It’s almost as if Jesus couldn’t wait another minute, let alone another day, to be with us. As a result, we are obligated to attend two Masses over this long Christmas weekend, one to celebrate the Fourth Sunday of Advent and one to celebrate the Nativity of the Lord. While various options exist to fulfill this obligation, such as attending Mass on Saturday evening and Monday morning, we cannot “double-up” by attending only one Mass on Sunday morning.

Obligations can feel like intrusions that conflict with our plans and complicate the list of things we already need to do. Yet, if we pause to consider God’s commands throughout Scripture and salvation history, we can see that He always has our good in mind and that His commands are at the service of communion with Him. Therefore, God commands us to worship Him by offering ourselves to Him, especially when we encounter Him in the holy sacrifice of the Mass.

On the Fourth Sunday of Advent, we will hear the command that Joseph is given to accept Mary as his wife. He is also told that the child she carries is the fulfillment of the prophecy, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel” (which means God is with us). (Mt. 1:23) Basically, God is saying, “Joseph, take Mary as your wife so that I can be with you!” God wants to make His dwelling with us.

On Christmas, at the Mass During the Day on Dec. 25, we will hear the words from the Gospel of John, “And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” (Jn. 1:14)

Every time we go to Mass, we have the opportunity to be with Jesus who becomes flesh in the Eucharist on the altar before us so He can make His dwelling in us. Listen to the invitation this Christmas, “Go to Mass so I can be with you!” Let us respond: “O Come, let us adore Him!”

Throughout this Christmas season, consider the commands of the Lord that have been directed to you in your life and circumstances so that you may notice the invitation to deeper communion with Him. God’s voice may sound so ordinary; we may miss it if we are not paying attention. Is He asking you to wash the dishes, stop judging or listen to your older relatives during your Christmas gathering?

Let it be an invitation so He can dwell with you here. Let your heart rest in the wonder that our God desires to dwell with you and offer Him the humble gifts of your time, trust and adoration.