theROCK

in Faith, Love

God's Love For Us

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I love Christmas time! Yes, partially because my birthday is Christmas Eve and usually kicks off the Christmas festivities for my family, but also because the Church takes this time after Christmas to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas - God’s love for us.

No other deity that has ever been worshiped has desired a relationship with humanity. No other deity that has ever been thought of has desired eternity with humanity. This is the heart of our faith—that we have a God who loves us, desires to have a relationship with us, and hopes to spend eternity with us. So much so that God sent the Word to become man: to walk this earth, eat with us, cry with us, laugh with us, and to show us how to get to heaven. He loved us to the point of becoming vulnerable with us, even coming as an infant.

I am a relatively new parent. I think of everything my son needs me to do for him daily:  feed him, change his diapers, get him dressed, and snuggle him when he gets hurt. As much as he is growing and learning, he is still dependent on us.

Jesus allowed for Mary and Joseph to care for Him. We are capable of loving God. As in any relationship, to love someone is a commitment. God shows His commitment to us by giving us free will, and by becoming man even while knowing that we would still face temptation and sin. He instituted the sacraments to right our relationship with him and fall more in love with him.

My hope is that this Christmas season, you encounter God’s love anew in the infant Jesus and make a commitment to grow in your love for Him.

in Faith, Joy

O Holy Night

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The walk from the church of my childhood to home was exactly thirteen minutes. In Illinois, because of the crowds, you don’t count distances in miles, but by how long it takes to get there. I know it was thirteen minutes because we had to come home for lunch each school day and we had exactly forty-five minutes. That gave us nineteen minutes to eat. It also helped for the many times I attended Mass or served at Mass to know exactly when I would have to leave.

But there was this one night, this one late night when the walk was different - when it was magical, when it was a special night, when the walk home lasted forever—Christmas Eve, the first year I had returned from college. It was snowing as we left to go to the still then, Mass at midnight. The snow was eight inches deep by the end of Mass. I helped a few people clean off their cars before my two sisters and I headed home, the only brave souls of my large family that chose to attend. The streets were abandoned, so we walked down the middle of the road. The moon was full so the new snow shimmered like diamonds as we passed darkened houses. All was quiet. We three spontaneously began to sing the Christmas hymn which is now my favorite, O Holy Night, the stars are brightly shining, it is the night of our dear Savior’s birth. We walked into a scene of joy and laughter as my relatives were all gathered around the table for the after midnight feast. It is what was done back then.

There was no more pleasant a Christmas Eve I remember, nor a more sacred and silent night. As you gather family for this feast of the Nativity of Our Lord, share with each other your favorite Christmas story, the time you really felt the presence of Jesus and really knew that God is watching over you.

in Love, Joy

Joy

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They arrived one minute before Mass began and sat in the row in front of me. Mom took off her long, tan coat, then removed the baby from the carrier. She gently picked up the small child and immediately snuggled him to her chest. In a moment, Dad arrived. He took off his coat and immediately grabbed his son. Mom watched with pride.

Together they sang and prayed and took turns holding the newest member of their family. Neither Mom nor Dad could stop smiling.
When parents welcome a new child into their lives, everything changes. All of their thoughts, emotions, and actions are focused on the baby. They would do anything for their child. Anything. They love their child with all their heart and all their soul.

On that Sunday morning, when I watched the Mom and Dad in the row in front of me, it wasn’t simply happiness I saw on their faces. I saw pure joy in their hearts. It’s the kind of joy we all want in our lives. This Christmas, we have a chance to experience this joy. It starts with two simple questions.

Are we prepared to welcome Jesus into our lives? Are we ready to let Him guide our thoughts, emotions, and actions?

Reach down, pick up the Christ child, and snuggle Him to your chest. Love Him with all your heart and all your soul. Then share Him with the world around you. Be prepared, because everything changes. You too, will be smiling from ear-to-ear. And you too will feel the joy in your heart.

Merry Christmas.

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