With the seasons being pushed forward by society to an earlier and earlier date, Christmas, in decorations, parties, shopping and gatherings is "old hat" by now. Many are looking forward to the celebrations being over. Even some of us purists at heart have given in and allowed the Christian Mothers Group to hold a Christmas Party pre-Christmas and given that Christmas Eve is Monday, allowed our crew to decorate the Church this past Thursday (the best day for their busy schedules). Of course we did not turn the tree lights on tonight, nor was the Christ Child in the manger (oh, how I remember my younger days when I was more of a purist - church would never have been decorated before the Fourth Sunday of Advent!).
But today I thought that I had misread my calendar and that tonight was Christmas Eve. Our 4:00 pm Mass was super crowded with extra chairs being brought from our hall on the lower level. Everyone seemed in a festive spirit, with many faces unfamiliar to me. As I welcomed everyone, I wondered if they thought that it was Christmas Eve, or that they were just home early for the holidays, or maybe they were here because the world had not ended yesterday. Whatever the reason, it was great seeing everyone and having such a crowd, and I welcomed them and invited them to join us often.
I also shared a stat that I read on the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops web site that remarked that there would be an estimated 33 million extra people at Mass during the Christmas Season that do not attend on a regular Sunday. I said that if those attending tonight were in this group, we invite them to join our family weekly as we praise God.
With the numbers tonight our celebration was right on. Our Young Voices choir led us in song, and it was jubilant. I reminded those present that our God is the God of the unexpected, that he is a God of surprises. He takes the lowly and lifts them up, through the simple he bring about profound changes, he works wonders and miracles through the ordinary - an ordinary touched by the awesome love of God. And we, expectant, awaiting, anticipating, are called to sing his praises and share his joy. Christmas will come ... we will celebrate his birthday ... we will be grateful for that first incarnation ... we will live in his embrace ... and we will await his return in glory. Tonight, at Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in North Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, we had a glimpse of his glory.