Dear Parishioners: It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!  The lights and wreaths are up and  this weekend our  very hard working decorating committee begins the final preparations for the Savior’s birth.  Beautiful plants and trees and the crèche help us to mark the great feast of the Incarnation.   Father Shemek and I have a small tree in the Rectory that we decorated this week.  The  candles have been put in the windows for a week as we await the coming of Christ at Christmas.  The light of the season is truly needed perhaps this year even more.  The darkness that has been cast over our land needs the light of Christ to pierce it and let faith, hope and love shine forth. Most certainly some of that light has been cast by your generous support of the OLM Outreach efforts to provide gifts, gift cards and other items for those in need during this time of year.  In their name, I thank you for your generosity in making the true spirit of the season alive for so many who are need. The light also shined last Sunday night as members of our OLM Youth Group gathered to celebrate the season.  Their celebration included assembling nearly one hundred bags of much needed toiletries for McAuley House.  What a great way to celebrate Christ’s coming! I offer our gratitude to the Youth Group for making His presence felt for those who might otherwise go without or remain forgotten.   I know the good folks at McAuley House are also very appreciative. In preparing for Christmas, I came across the words of the late Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador.  He was assassinated for his prophetic witness for the poor and marginalized in his country.  At what would be his final Christmas Mass, he offered the following words:  “No one can celebrate a genuine Christmas without being truly poor.  The self-sufficient, the proud, those who, because they have everything, look down on others, those who have no need even of God, for them there will be no Christmas. Only the poor, the hungry, those who need someone to come on their behalf, will have that someone.  That someone is God.  Emmanuel. God-with-us.  Without poverty of spirit there can be no abundance of God. “ The Adoration of the ShepherdsAgnolo Bronzino, c. 1535 Most certainly we all need Christ to come this year.  We truly need the Messiah to come on our behalf.  So let us continue to prepare the empty manger in our hearts for the Lord to be reborn this Christmas.  May we continue to feel His presence in our lives and make His presence known in our words and deeds.  We rejoice because not only do we need our Savior to come but because He already with us.  Let us celebrate the joy, the hope and the peace of Christmas as a parish by sharing our faith in Jesus Christ.  Perhaps you might invite someone to Christmas Mass who doesn’t usually come to Church. Why not give them a gift of the real presence of Christ at Christmas! Father Shemek and I offer you and your families a very Merry Christmas.  We are truly blessed to be part of such a great parish family and are truly looking forward to our first  celebration of Christmas at Our Lady of Mercy. Know that you are remembered at Christmas Masses. My prayer is that you will have a Joyful Christmas that is rooted in the tranquility  deep faith provides, strong enough to survive the sorrows and  carry the burdens that life delivers to our doorstep yet lively enough to celebrate life’s happiest moments. May the birthday of Christ touch you with deep joy.  I pray, too, for a Peaceful Christmas: the peace the world so clearly is unable to give itself; the peace that broken hearts long for; the peace that is ours to share with one another in forgiveness, kindness and charity. May the birthday of Christ sow seeds of peace in your heart.  Finally, I pray that you have a Hopeful Christmas. So much in the world around us can diminish hope yet  the message of Christmas is at its very foundation one of hopefulness. Such hope is needed this year more than ever.  May the birthday of Christ renew hope in your heart.  I wish you a Joyful, Peaceful, Hopeful Christmas and should your Christmas be Merry and Happy, too – all the better! Please pray the same for me. God Bless. Merry Christmas!