Christmas Message 2021

Christmas Message 2021

The very weakness that we find in Bethlehem will be the source of our strength. There, in a cave we will find her who gives birth and her Son who will bring about the return of the rest of her children. Click To Tweet

You, Bethlehem-Ephrathah
too small to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to be ruler in Israel;
whose origin is from of old,
from ancient times.
Therefore the Lord will give them up, until the time
when she who is to give birth has borne,
and the rest of his kindred shall return
to the children of Israel. (Micah 5:2-3)

For four weeks we have been on an Advent pilgrimage. For four weeks we have journeyed toward Jerusalem, bringing with us along the way all of our baggage, all of our stuff.

Because we have a lot of stuff, we are often prevented from enjoying the full breadth of our pilgrim experience. But every year, Advent is an opportunity for us to begin again. To load up for the journey and to travel to Bethlehem!

Why is this? Why do we travel this route every year and of what value is it to us?

We do this because the destination of the pilgrimage puts us not in contact with a place, but with a Person, the Person of Emmanuel, God-with-us!

As pilgrims to Bethlehem, and not merely as travelers, we have taken time along the way to savor the sights and sounds that lead to the manger. Many have surprised us, many have delighted us. We have heard the vox clamantis in deserto, exhorting us to prepare the way of the Lord!

We have seen the Virgin Pure with the Archangel proclaiming her fiat, and we have witnessed the outpouring of the Spirit on her elderly cousin as they greeted each other, and he, the Messiah who is full of grace and truth, caused joy to overflow in the child, his precursor, in the womb of his sainted mother!

Prophets have taught us to wait on the Lord, to persevere, to not lose courage or hope. Yet we have not always lived up to the lofty challenge. We have faltered. We have stumbled. We have become weighed down by the baggage we brought to the journey.

And that is why the Church invites us to make this pilgrimage every year. None of us gets it right the first time. True, we get the easy part of Christmas. We get the gifts and the holly, the egg nog and the elves, but do we really get the meaning?

Do we really get the fact that in this most extraordinary, mysterious and hidden way, God has condescended to become as weak, as dependent, as helpless as a baby in order to rescue you and me from sin?

We say it, but do we get it? Do we get the fact that God’s pattern of dealing with us always confounds us?

Bethlehem-Ehpratha was too small to be considered worthy of greatness, but Israel’s true ruler, the Messiah, came out of her.

We are often distracted during our journey by those who are more powerful and more influential, who often are headed in the opposite direction from us, or who sometimes directly oppose us. We get discouraged, we are tempted to give up. At those times we should remember why we are making this journey.

The very weakness that we find in Bethlehem will be the source of our strength. There, in a cave we will find her who gives birth and her Son who will bring about the return of the rest of her children.

It is with deep gratitude that we greet each and every one of you who journey with us at Sycamore Trust to Bethlehem. Through your support, through your encouragement and, mostly, through your prayers you enable us to find the strength of our mission in the weakness of the manger as we worship the Child and honor, Notre Dame, his and our mother.

May each of you have a very Blessed and Merry Christmas!

Rev. John Raphael. ’89
Sycamore Trust Board Member

“Preaching of Saint John the Baptist” by Jacob (Jacques) de Gheyn II (1565-1629). Kunsthistorisches Museum (Art History Museum) in Vienna.
Vox Clara Ecce Intonat, Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, Advent at Ephesus