The Living Rite column explores what you will see, hear, taste, touch or smell while at church this weekend.
This is one of those Sundays when two important events of the Catholic Church almost collide. One is the Fourth Sunday of Advent, when the Gospel presents the Annunciation, Mary’s great “yes” to something so great that it is hard to comprehend. And, almost immediately — even on the same day for many of us — we will witness the Incarnation itself, the culmination of Mary’s answer: Jesus, the Son of God, taking the flesh of humankind. On Dec. 24, the morning Mass for this Sunday of Advent is followed quickly by the evening Vigil Mass of Christmas. This collision of events may be quite evident in your churches this weekend.
As you look around, is your church already decorated for Christmas, the poinsettias fully displayed? Is the empty manger awaiting its most profound guest? Or is there still a sense of Advent that will end with the last Mass as a mad rush to decorate begins? Depending on your parish’s depth and breadth of decor, this could either be a short or a very long process. Then, before you know it, you’re dressing for 4 p.m. Christmas Eve Mass.
As we are overwhelmed with baking last-minute cookies and getting that ham in the oven, we find ourselves saying, “I am too busy to help fold Christmas programs.” “I couldn’t possibly help with the children’s Christmas pageant.” “Are you kidding me? I have to help place garland at the stained glass windows?”
In this time of many decisions, we have to step back to also check the barometer of our faith. We say we believe and cherish the Word made flesh. Ah, but are we ready to say “yes” when called to be disciples of that word, just as Mary was, even though she may have been apprehensive about her future?
What do we do? Try comparing it to the impending birth of a child, like Mary experienced. We think we are ready until the moment arrives and we find that it doesn’t quite fit into our plans. Mary not only accepted her fiat, but she also took a long journey to be with her cousin, Elizabeth, who herself was with child when it seemed almost impossible. After John’s birth, and in the height of her own baby anticipation, Mary made the same journey back to use her precious remaining time to prepare.
So, this weekend, as we consider saying “yes” to parish needs, even though presents still need wrapping, let us not forget to say “yes” to the testament of our faith as disciples in that Word made flesh. Let us slow down our hurried needs and take time to pray and breathe in the holiness of this time of year and realize that our uncertain future will eventually culminate in certain eternity.
Wettstein is a volunteer choir director and former director of music and liturgy at Good Shepherd Parish, Chilton.