It has been said that Catholics only sing in church at Christmas. I am not sure that this is true, but from my vantage point on the altar, I have to admit, it does appear that on Christmas everyone seems to be singing. Who can remain silent when, as entering the church, we hear the strands of O’ Come All Ye Faithful: and it would not seem like midnight mass if we did not sing Silent Night, Holy Night.
Violence and crime always seem to be coming into our living room on TV, but the stories on TV and in the newspaper only overshadow the tragedies that occur year after year, especially at Christmas. What should be the most joy-filled time of year is often the most lonely and despairing for many people. The suicide rate is at its highest at Christmas. For many, this may not be the worst of times, but it is not the best of times either. In our own lives there may be tragedy.
A priest friend of mine asked a group of second graders, “Advent is a time of getting ready…. Who is coming?” They all answered, “Santa Claus!” We smile at this, but this is what much of our culture thinks of at Christmas. A jolly guy, over at Macy’s, in a red suit, squeezes himself down a chimney and brings toys.
A man took his son to the top of a mountain and showed him everything around. He pointed out the trees, the flowers, the expansive sky above, and the tiny houses below. He told his son there was something else down there as well and asked if he could see it? The boy screwed up his eyes, and looked and looked, yet could still only see the distance.
A young child climbed to the top of a large tree. His mother, worried, called out to him, “What are you doing?” “Nothing,” the boy replied. “Well, then, get down here,” his mother answered in an angry tone. The child was confused. “Why should I get into trouble for doing nothing?” he wondered.
The Master was going on a journey and before He left, He called in His servants and gave them each strange and wonderful gifts. To the first, He gave a power which, until then, had never been heard or seen in the land; it was to make music and to dance. The gifts of melody and rhythm were put into his keeping.
A single sentence that is supremely significant in our Gospel today, it is right at the end of the Gospel so it could easily escape our ears... “The greatest among you will be the one who serves the rest. Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled, but whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.”