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The Missionary Magic of the Season

It seems that every year, before the Thanksgiving turkey is fully digested, we are suddenly surrounded by the music, decorations, and sentiments of Christmas. Along the way, almost every advertiser taps into the “magical” quality of the holiday season and encourages us to do one thing: buy stuff.

And my inner curmudgeon always responds with a big “Bah humbug!”

What gives all these corporations the right to reduce this holy season to nothing more than an annual sales strategy? To eclipse Advent with endless Christmas ads? And then to cut off our 12-day celebration of the real Christmas season right when it’s getting started?

But then I have to admit: complaining about the commercialization of Christmas never helped much with our mission to make disciples. As with all things, our call is always to let our “missionary impulse” transform how we live out the Christmas holiday season.

On the one hand, we know that Christmas does not begin right after Thanksgiving. We know that Advent has only just begun. We take this time to prepare for the coming of Christ to the stable in Bethlehem and for his return in glory at the end of time. We know that Christmas without Advent is like Easter without Lent: it loses its true meaning and spiritual fruitfulness. We know this, and we can live this out in many ways in our families and parishes and schools, as many of us do.

But on the other hand, many of our brothers and sisters only know a commercialized version of Christmas … and yet they still love it. There exists a profound, purely human attraction to this Christian holiday – this “holy day” – an attraction to a uniquely “magical” time of the year, set apart from the every day struggles and routines. This attraction is one more proof that we all yearn for something that gives our lives meaning and transcendent value, something that can only be expressed in special music, decorations, feasting, traditions, rituals, and gatherings. And this is where we see an opportunity for evangelization.

Whenever we have the chance, we should simply offer them what every human heart desires: to be known, loved, and forgiven. In a word, we should offer them an encounter with Jesus Christ. We can invite them into God’s family, where we know that the “magic” of Christmas is not an empty sentiment used to sell things: it’s the atmosphere of a mysterious love story between God and his people, a story that happens to be true and have a very happy ending.

There are so many ways we can do this at Christmas. Just one example: all of the more active parishioners in one parish decided that they would stop complaining about the crowds at Christmas who sat in their front pews. Instead, they chose to do two things: first, to sit in a hall nearby and participate via live video so those who only came for Christmas could have the best seats; and second, to volunteer for all kinds of hospitality ministries to make everyone feel welcome and at home. In this way they were able to share their joy with those seeking the true meaning of Christmas and thus made their own joy “complete.”

What might you be able to do in your parish to share the joy of knowing Jesus Christ with others this Christmas?

Got Kerygma?

That’s kerygma, not charisma.

Yes, a personality with a lot of charisma is a great gift when it comes to evangelization. But what we’re talking about here is even more powerful and essential to evangelization. Read more

How’s Your Elevator Speech Coming?

I spend a lot of time helping to form volunteers and ministers in parishes and schools. We have spent time in prayer and reflection, time learning about our rich faith, time redefining our priorities, and time learning how to do the ministry to which we have been called.  However, as I reflect on encountering these wonderful people and accompanying them on their journey with Christ, I fear I have been missing an important step: the proclamation of the kerygma. Read more

Mission Matters: May 24, 2016

This week’s “Parish Table Talk”: Fortnight for Freedom; New marriage preparation programs; V Encuentro of Hispanic ministry; Camp Glow 2016; plus this Thursday’s blog post. Read more

Why – and How – We All Need to Read ‘Amoris Laetitia’

There has been a lot of buzz about Pope Francis’ Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, “The Joy of Love” which came out last Friday. There’s a good reason for that. And it’s not the one you’ve seen in the headlines.

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Developing Young Missionary Disciples

Thanks to Pope Francis, much of the Church- including our own Archdiocese – is talking about Missionary Discipleship. That’s a really nice catch phrase, but what does it look like?  How do we do Missionary Discipleship and how do we create a young church full of Missionary Disciples? Here are three ways to start: Read more

Some Thoughts on Rebuilding Your Parish from Up Close

As a parishioner at Church of the Nativity, I have seen up close what an evangelizing parish looks like, at least when it’s located in Timonium, Maryland. But there are some things that every parish needs in order to become an evangelizing parish. In this week’s post, I would like to introduce you to one of the great sites on our resources section: the Rebuilt Parish Association (RPA). The pastoral leadership at Nativity is pretty excited about RPA and they believe you will be too. Read more

Caring for God’s Creation: A Passion for the Lost and Forgotten

Laudato Si  is Pope Francis’ powerful and prophetic encyclical aimed to awaken us to the reality that if we do not care about our planet then it will not be able to care for us. Read more

Lent and Marriage: A Match Made at the Synod

Pope Francis and the bishops at the Synod on the Family called for marriage preparation to take on a catechumenal form. What an exciting proposition! When preparing couples for marriage, I invite them to model their immediate marriage preparation after Lent and Advent. Read more

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