As the holiday season comes to an end, many people feel a sense of loss. It’s often a let down as our relatives and friends return home to their busy lives, many times to other parts of the country and even the world.
The premise of the five-week message series for Advent and Christmas has been that God calls us home to our families during the holidays to remember who we are, restore our hope, and experience healing and wholeness, just as God gathered the ancient Israelites from the four winds and led them home as one family ruled by one Lord, one Messiah. If you’ve been following the series, you have already anticipated going home to rest and recharge within the safe harbor of your family. Hopefully, you’ve also decided to forgive old wounds and let go of small hurts, lead your family into service of others who are less fortunate, and bring home the hygge by being fully present to your loved ones, blessing them with your care and attention.
But now it’s time to go home, to start school or work again. The business of ordinary life will begin to displace the magic of the Christmas season. Having put on the “bond of perfection” that is love, as Saint Paul writes in the second reading, the time is drawing near when we will have to let go and let our loved ones return home, and that’s probably a bit of a let down.
The story of Hannah in the first reading today is just such a story. Having prayed earnestly to the Lord for a child, promising that she would dedicate him to religious service, God answered her prayers. Now she would have to hand over her only son at a very young age to the care of strangers in the temple. To have the strength to do that, she must have sensed that Samuel had great things to accomplish for the Lord. She must have known that God had plans to make him a light for the people and God’s servant to bring about his purposes.
Mary must have felt something similar. Losing the child Jesus in the temple, as we heard in the gospel reading today, was a foreshadowing of his ultimate mission for God. In the story, Jesus returns with his parents to Nazareth, and the next time we read of Jesus in Jerusalem will be at his triumphal entry (Luke 19:28-39), which leads to his death, at which point Mary loses Jesus, her only son, to the greatest purpose ever known: the salvation of the world.
This Christmas I hope you brought home the hygge. Now it’s time to send that coziness, warmth, and love with your relatives and loved ones, as they leave your hearth and home on their God-given missions to a waiting world.
--Father Roger Gustafson, Pastor
During the holiday season in our message series that we’re calling, Family Matters, we’ve been helping you get ready for the many family visits this Christmas season. In the course of our Sunday messages, we’ve looked at how to prepare emotionally and spiritually for family gatherings, forgive loved ones who have hurt you, and work together to care for the poor. You can catch up on past messages by listening to them on our website.
This week, we explore the challenge of being fully present to family when we spend time with them at Christmas. In the gospel reading, Mary came home to her family for Christmas. After an angel announced that she would give birth to the Son of God and Savior of the world, Mary made the long journey to the home of her relatives, Zechariah and Elizabeth, who was pregnant at the time with John the Baptist. Mary’s mere presence caused John to leap for joy in his mother’s womb, while Elizabeth herself exclaimed, “How does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”
These words are almost identical to those of King David in the presence of the Old Testament Ark of the Covenant. According to the Bible, the Ark contained the original tablets of the Ten Commandments. The Israelites carried the Ark with them for forty years while they wandered in the desert following their release from slavery in Egypt. After their conquest of the promised land, the Ark was brought to a city in the northern kingdom of Israel called Shiloh. King David later took the Ark to Jerusalem, but, fearful of its power, subsequently sent it to the household of a man named, Obed-edom, where it stayed for three months, the same period of time that Mary stayed with Elizabeth blessing her household. In yet another parallel, David danced before the Ark of the Covenant, while John the Baptist leapt for joy in the presence of Mary carrying Jesus.
Because of these scriptural similarities, Mary soon was called the Ark of the New Covenant by early Christians. In the Ark of the Old Covenant, God came to his people with a spiritual presence, but in Mary, the Ark of the New Covenant, God comes to dwell with his people in the person of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. In both cases—Old and New—the Ark contains the real presence of God, or his shekinah, through which he dwells with his people.
During this holiday season when you are visiting with family, remember to radiate God’s love and peace by being truly present to your loved ones. You, too, can become an ark of God by bringing comfort and coziness, or what the Scandinavians call hygge, to your family this Christmas.
Listen live or online to our Sunday message this weekend for inspiration and some practical advice on how to put aside all the distractions and ignore the commotion of the holiday season, so that you can focus on your family and bring home the hygge.
--Father Roger Gustafson, Pastor
In our Sunday message series for Advent and Christmas that we’re calling, Family Matters: Bring Home The Hygge (a Scandinavian word for “comfort” or “coziness”), we have been reflecting on family matters during the holiday season. Our goal is to take you on a road trip home to family this Christmas. The message for each Sunday is about a different stage of that journey home. So far, we’ve considered how to prepare emotionally and spiritually for family gatherings at Christmastime and especially how to forgive loved ones who have hurt us. You can catch up on past messages by listening to them on our website.
This week, we turn our attention to the next leg of the journey home for Christmas. In the gospel reading, John has come to announce the coming of one mightier than he, a Messiah who will separate the wheat from the chaff and baptize with fire and the Spirit. In response to the hope of a coming savior who will come to dwell with his people, the crowds, “filled with expectation,” ask John what they should do. Having already repented of their sins and received the bath of forgiveness, John tells them to share their abundance with those less fortunate. “Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise,” he says.
In the same way, there is no better time than the holidays for families to consider sharing their gifts and blessings with those in need. Indeed, the family is like a “domestic church” with a mission to foster a communion of life and love through prayer and through discipleship in order to evangelize the world. Love within the family should spill over its borders and radiate out to the whole world. The fundamental mission of the family is to be a visible sign of God’s love for humanity. The family therefore should not only be turned inwards but also open to the rest of the world. As far back as the fourth century, the early Church Father, Saint John Chrysostom, exhorted parents not only to make their homes into a little church where faith grows among family members, but also to show openness to strangers and the poor, and welcome and hospitality to others. As Saint Paul admonishes in the second reading, “your kindness should be known to all.”
Healing comes from service. Bring home the hygge this Christmas by encouraging your family to engage in an act of service for others together.
Listen live or online to our Sunday message this weekend for inspiration and practical advice on how to do something simple for the poor this Christmas season, not only for their benefit but also to bring your family closer by bringing home the hygge of the intimacy and warmth that comes from serving the world together.
--Father Roger Gustafson, Pastor
Last week in our new message series for Advent and Christmas that we’re calling, Family Matters: Bring Home The Hygge (a Scandinavian word for “comfort” or “coziness”), we reflected on being with family over the holidays. In particular, we discussed getting prepared for those encounters by: (i) acknowledging that the trip home may be less than perfect in some respects; (ii) having confidence that God will see us through the inevitable family squabbles that will arise; and (iii) determining to love our families no matter what.
This week, we turn our attention to the next leg of the journey home for Christmas. Before we come upon certain family members during the holiday season, it’s a good idea to work on forgiveness for past misunderstandings and painful episodes in our family relationships. This is especially true during a season in which the Church celebrates the coming of the Prince of Peace into a world so often torn by strife and division.
In the first reading this week, the prophet Baruch encourages the Jewish people by promising that God remembers them in their pain and one day will lead his people home. He will gather them from the East and the West and bring them back to their homeland in Jerusalem.
Each year the holidays call us home to family. Sometimes that can be a painful ritual that recalls bad memories and uncomfortable experiences. In the gospel reading for today, John the Baptist calls the people to “repentance for the forgiveness of sins,” in order to prepare the way of the Lord to return to their lives. The ancient Israelites were a big extended family. The twelve tribes of Israel descended from twelve brothers, the sons of the patriarch Jacob. In many ways, it was a seriously dysfunctional family. Jacob tricked his father to get what rightfully belonged to his brother, Esau. Jacob’s own sons sold one of their brothers, Joseph, into slavery. Ultimately this family dysfunction reached a fever pitch in a civil war between the northern and southern tribes that permanently destroyed the nation’s greatness.
God is gathering you back to your family as he did the ancient Israelites. Before you go home this Christmas, prepare yourself for the process of forgiveness. To the extent you are able to repent of resentment and anger, you will be much happier this holiday season. As Saint Paul says in the second reading, may “your love . . increase ever more and more,” because the holidays are a time for forgiveness and everyone needs to forgive someone.
Listen live or online to our Sunday message this weekend for practical advice on how to forgive those in our families who have hurt us the most, and then bring home the hygge of the intimacy and warmth that comes from true forgiveness.
--Father Roger Gustafson, Pastor
Today marks the beginning of a new message series that we’re calling, Family Matters: Bring Home The Hygge.
As you may remember from last year’s holiday messages, hygge (pronounced hoo-gah) is a sense of comfort, coziness, and togetherness that just makes you feel good about life. According to Meik Wiking, the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen and author of The Little Book of Hygge, “you know hygge when you feel it. It is when you are cuddled up on a sofa with a loved one, or sharing comfort food with your closest friends. It is those crisp blue mornings when the light through your window is just right. It is about gratitude and savoring the simple pleasures in life. In short, it is the pursuit of everyday happiness” (Harper Collins Publ’rs 2017, Back Cover).
Last year’s message series was about the spiritual comfort God brings us during the holiday season through the gift of his Son. The premise of the series we begin today is that we also can bring the comfort and healing of hygge when we spend time with our families this holiday season. Indeed, the holidays are a time for hope and strength nurtured within the safety and comfort of our families.
Our hope is to take you on an old-fashioned family road trip. When you go home for the holidays—whether that means actually traveling somewhere or simply welcoming loved ones to your home—we want you to bring the comfort, coziness, and well-being of hygge with you. Think of the series as a kind of travelogue.
In the first week, we’ll help you prepare emotionally and spiritually for the family gatherings that will take place at Christmastime. In the second week, the message will explore the need for forgiveness and reconciliation in some of our family relationships. We’ll also encourage you to work together as a family during the holidays to do something for the poor, because service to others brings healing to ourselves.
We’ll also take time to remember to be fully present to our loved ones during the holiday season, blessing them with our care and attention and God’s love and peace. In the fifth and final week, we’ll take a look at how we can send the coziness, warmth, and love of hygge home with our loved ones, as they go back to their busy lives having been renewed and restored by the healing power of the love of family.
As we bring home the hygge this holiday season, we’ll also remember families in Haiti who live in makeshift shacks and long for safe homes. With our partner, Cross Catholic Outreach, we will seek to raise $6,000 to put one family in a sturdy, four-room home.
So, come along for the ride this Advent and Christmas seasons, as we Bring Home The Hygge.
--Father Roger Gustafson, Pastor
Father Roger Gustafson