It would be hard to think of any writer in the last several generations who celebrated Christmas as heartily as G. K. Chesterton. It was precisely because of this, and not in spite of it, that he said with a severity not characteristic of his benign personality: “There is no more dangerous or disgusting habit than that of celebrating Christmas before it comes.”
Dangerous, that is, because the rush neglects the deepest mysteries of life which are the stuff of Advent meditations: Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell; and by that neglect we are abandoned to a life of anxiety, unable to know why we were made or what we are to become. Disgusting, that is, because rushing Christmas spoils the appetite for higher things and tries to replace holy joy with entertainments that quickly become boring.
Advent is the time to get ready for the surprise of Christmas, and that would seem to be a paradox for there can be no preparation for a surprise. But because Christ is “ever ancient, ever new,” we know ahead of time that his eternal presence will always surprise us, the way he has surprised every generation, by “making all things new.” Note that he does not make all new things, for that is what fashion designers do, which is why they quickly go out of fashion. Rather, he takes what exists already and breathes new life into it. He does that with a weary world, and he does that to all those who give him permission through humble submission to his grace.
This past year, our parishes have gone through a program called “Making All Things New” for restructuring parishes to meet the new needs of new demographics. I did not love the Rube Goldberg elements of the program. But the title is the theme of Advent and of every day of a Christian's life truly lived. This Advent truly ushers in a new year for the lives of our parishes.
For almost one and a half years I have been Administrator of the Church of the Holy Innocents as well as Pastor of the Church of St. Michael. Both parishes have been given a surprising new lease on life in response to the potential of our neighborhoods. This is a cause for thanks, along with a renewed sense of responsibility. I am very happy that the Church of the Holy Innocents will have its own full-time Administrator beginning on the Feast of the Holy Innocents. Father Leonard Villa is an old friend of mine: I was at his ordination and have watched his fine ministry in various parishes. He is perfectly suited for his assignment, and I am glad that our two parishes will be close to each other, not only physically but spiritually. I shall celebrate my last Mass as Administrator of Holy Innocents at Midnight on Christmas while continuing as Pastor of St. Michael's as the parish grows.