To ponder and pray: Christmas is a season for traditions. We return to familiar rituals of our childhood. We renew the bonds of friendship through customs of gathering and greeting. And we create new traditions as a way of giving something of ourselves with hope for the future.
Whether new or old, strictly followed or merely done out of habit, our traditions tie us together from person to person and from one generation to the next. They are the common thread between the past, through the present, into the future.
When adults prepare to enter into the Christian family through baptism, the Christian community gathers around them and celebrates the traditio—the handing on or presentation of the Creed. The essence of our faith that has been handed on to us from our ancestors all the way from Abraham and culminating in Jesus is this: God is with us.
Like the dawn breaking forth or a burning torch at night, this Christmas message of Emmanuel cannot be hidden. It will not stay silent. It will sing and rejoice and be pronounced directly by the mouth of God into our darkest night. God is with us in the turmoil of our lives, the grudges that endure from one generation to the next, and the hopelessness that comes from our persistent failure to be the people we know we could be. Into that world, God breathes this message, like a midwife or spouse breathes with a woman about to give birth: “Do not be afraid. I am with you.” In our fractured homes, our divided neighborhoods, and our broken planet, God binds up all our wounds and knits us together, for we are forsaken no longer. Whether saint or sinner, strong in faith or barely hanging on, God calls each of us “My Delight,” for God is not swayed by human merit. God is not regulated by societal conventions and norms. God does not draw with straight lines through history, nor does God choose perfect people to reveal his message through the ages. For God acts with grace.
What we see in the genealogy of Jesus proclaimed today is God’s grace at work in human history. Unpredictable, creative, generative, and surprising grace that embraces the unknown and chooses the unexpected. Grace that chose Rahab, a prostitute and a protector; David, a king and an adulterer; Jacob, a thief, and Ruth, a foreigner. Grace that is at times inconvenient, sometimes imperceptible, always persistent. In everything, we must trust in the slow but steady work of God.
This Christmas, we receive the message handed down by tradition and teaching from our ancestors that according to his promise God is with us, never to abandon us. We are all part of this lineage of grace. Abraham fathered Isaac, Jesse fathered David, Jesus called Peter and Paul, Paul called Lydia, and someone called you to announce this message. Together let us keep our tradition and hand on the grace and blessings that we have received from God.
Excerpt by Diana Macalintal from Living Liturgy: Spirituality, Celebration, and Catechesis for Sundays and Solemnities, Year B, 2018, by Brian Schmisek, Diana Macalintal, and Jay Cormier, published by Liturgical Press. Copyright © 2017, Order of Saint Benedict, Collegeville, Minnesota. All rights reserved. Used with permission..
About Living Liturgy
If you enjoyed this short catechetical article of mine on liturgy, music, or the RCIA, I encourage you to check out the entire Living Liturgy 2018 resource because you will get so much more than just reading from my excerpts. Brian Schmisek and Jay Cormier did a fantastic job of providing a wealth of theological information, pastoral reflections, and practical resources for every Sunday and solemnity of the entire year. Not only do you get all the readings, opening prayers, and Gospel verses for every feast, but you also get scripture exegesis, homily points, psalm response reflections for your psalmists, liturgical preparation questions for all your liturgical ministers and catechists, a lector’s pronunciation guide, sample penitential act tropes, and intercessions, including the presider’s introduction and concluding prayer for those intercessions.
When the 2018 edition debuted at last summer’s NPM convention, it completely sold out from the Liturgical Press booth! I was at the booth for most of the week, and I heard so many great comments from participants of how beautiful and useful this resource looks. So many more also told me how they have relied so much on this resource that was begun by Joyce Ann Zimmerman, CPPS, and Kathleen Harmon, SNDdeN, in 1999!
I have been blessed to be part of this project that continues the good work begun by Sr. Joyce Ann and Sr. Kathleen and LitPress, and I pray that our team’s contribution through Living Liturgy will help you every week of the new liturgical year.