“I have good news and bad news.”
If you can imagine Moses giving the same speeches that make up the book of Deuteronomy to a 21st-century crowd of Israelites, these might be his opening words.
The “good news”: God promises that if the Israelites remain faithful to His commandments, they will enjoy peace and harmony in the Promised Land and will be protected from their enemies. God then warns that if they do not keep His commandments there will be serious consequences; namely, Israel will be strewn about as a people and He will not protect them from the surrounding nations.
Now for the “bad news”: that they would indeed stop following God’s commandments, and because of this, be “…scattered among all the peoples, from one end of the earth to the other.” (Deuteronomy 28:64).
Unfortunately for the Israelites, Moses’ prophecies came true.
After the death of King Solomon, the kingdom began to collapse as the Israelites fell into idol worship.
First, the kingdom was divided. Then, Israel was invaded. Ultimately, both the northern and southern kingdoms were taken into exile by the Assyrians and Babylonians.
After a period of captivity, God brought the Israelites back to the Promised Land. But even during this period of restoration, Israel’s enemies frequently attacked them as a continuation of their punishment.
Michael Barber writes in his book, “The True Meaning of Christmas”, that the Roman occupation and oppression during the time of Christ was understood by those first-century Jews to be part of this same divine chastisement. Barber explains that because these Jews saw their situation through the eyes of faith, they believed God would eventually send a Messiah to save them and restore their nation. And indeed, he came.
It is from this place that we can appreciate the meaning and importance of Christmas.
Barber notes that the word “Christmas” comes from the two words, “Christ’s Mass.” In both the Anglican and Catholic traditions, Mass is the term used from the official services of worship. Thus, “Christmas” necessarily implies the reality that this day is all about the worship of Christ, who is God. (John 1:1;14)
Like the Israelites, we may wonder if we have also incurred a similar punishment from the Lord due to worshiping various false gods.. We often feel divided from our fellow man and invaded by so many things that steal our peace. We may even feel exiled in numerous ways.
The good news is that we don’t have to wait hundreds of years for the Messiah. He is already come!
All we must do is repent and turn back to him, and ask him to help us put him first in our lives!
Considering these glad tidings, I propose we make a resolution: This Christmas, if we are able, we ought to go to church.
Why go to church? When we make time for worship, we are making the effort to put God first in our lives. Going to church is like love: it’s not always easy, but it’s always worth it.
We know that in any important relationship, taking time to be with our loved one is the only way to grow in intimacy. What better way to be with God than to attend church? And what better day to set aside time for God than on the day he was born?
By doing so we not only allow God to come back into our lives, but we help others do the same. By worshiping together, we open ourselves to being transformed by the Gospel by the one who “is making all things new!” (Revelation 21:5).
This Christmas, let us resolve to put the Lord first in our lives. And in doing so, we allow him to continue to make us new.
For anyone who desires to go to church this Christmas, but doesn’t have a place to go, you are always invited to St. Columbkille in Wilmington or Holy Name Chapel in Blanchester!
The same invitation is extended to any of our brothers and sisters that might be interested in joining us this year for Christmas Masses.
Masses on Christmas Eve will be at 3:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m., and 11 p.m. at St. Columbkille. There is another Mass at 9 a.m. on Christmas Day at St. Columbkille, and at 11:30 a.m. at Holy Name Chapel in Blanchester.
There will be caroling beginning 30 minutes before Christmas Eve Masses, and 15 minutes before those on Christmas day.
We would love to have you!
Matthew Montag is Seminarian Intern at St. Columbkille Catholic Church in Wilmington.
This weekly column is provided to the News Journal on a monthly rotation basis by members of the Wilmington Area Ministerial Association (WAMA).