Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will.
The declaration of the angels, which we sing out anew after putting aside the
in the past Sundays of Advent, summarizes well the gift of Christmas.In the first words,
Glory to God in the highest,
the angels praise God for thewondrous gift of this night, which reveals us the truth (if we are not aware) that Godis a God of unexpected blessings.I never could have imagined all the blessings I have received in my first 6months of priestly ministry: WYD, Holy Land, warm welcome from the pastor (away in Italy for first 11 days!), great help of parish staff and the faithful who havesmiled and endured all my little mistakes and my difference in personality (especiallythose marriage couples who never met me!). Also, though, the great gift of ministering in the person of Christ, particularly in the sacraments: praying the Mass, baptizing, anointing the ill or infirm, and forgiving sins in Confession. This last onehas been a special Advent gift from God: I have ministered over 50 hours of confession during Advent, and what a gift it is to be present there when Godreconciles a soul to himself and fills it with His Love. Indeed, God's love has become present to me in such unimaginable ways.
Glory to God in the highest
.The most unimaginable blessing of all happened two-thousand years ago, in asmall town of a small people, in a stable-cave, with noone but his parents and a fewshepherds present. This miraculous blessing that we celebrate today is unexpected inmany ways: first, it was not expected by Mary or Joseph – the Annunciation was asurprise to them because they weren't even married yet. Also, it was a surprise because the Messiah shouldn't have such humble beginnings: born on the fringe of the empire, poor, homeless, without any worldly fanfare. Finally, it was a surprise because the Messiah, this little child, is God himself: For Israel, God was not to bedepicted in any images – He was completely other. As we say in our Creed (the newtranslation): he is “maker all things, visible and invisible,” and stood outside of thatcreation. The Jewish people knew that God our creator who loves us is presenteverywhere, and He does not need to manifest Himself physically to be close to us.Yet, this is exactly what God does, he condescends in loving humility to stepinto the world he has created, becoming one of us, subject to our finite realities of time, place, and suffering. Would we ourselves ever freely become an ant or a tree?This shows exactly the love of God, who is a God of unexpected blessings. Now this doesn't mean there isn't a tinge of suffering and crosses in life – indeed we all know very well the pain our imperfect world can bring: caused bothfrom personal sin and from Original Sin. But that pain, those evils we have to suffer,are given a limit in this little child. And this is perhaps the greatest blessing, the mostunexpected blessing we have received: the hope that in Jesus, Emmanuel (God-with-us), we can find the way to a world and an everlasting life that is free from the pain