After 4 weeks of Advent, preparing the way of the Lord; making rough ways smooth we reflect on the words of the Prophet Isaiah. Isaiah wrote in about 740 B.C. The country of Judah was fighting their arch rival Assyria. Isaiah was encouraging the people to stay their course as help was on the way. "The people who have walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone". "For the yolk that burdened them, the pole on their shoulder, and the rod of their task master you have smashed." Have we not all at times walked in darkness and in the land of gloom? Some in our community have had the horrible experience of job loss this past year. Others have seen family members go through the painful times of divorce and family dysfunction. Some have had to stand by as their child or grand child suffered illness and long standing medical treatment. While others like myself have been with their spouse as they have breathed their last breath and died into the loving arms of Jesus. Yes I and others have walked in darkness and gloom. Tonight the Prophet Isaiah reminds us once again that there is a new light shining before us to lead us out of the gloom. The Israelite people walked in the desert for 40 years, felt the rod of their task master, the suffering, the drought, the sense of loneliness that accompanied their journey. God has smashed that loneliness with the most precious of gifts. "Every boot that tramped in battle, every cloak rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for flames". Tonight---this very holy night we pause to remember our children and grandchildren who find themselves walking in the desert of Iraq and Afghanistan knowing they are trying to do their very best and in their own way bringing peace to a war torn nation. This is not the night to argue the politics of various situations but to pray for peace as we honor the Prince of Peace who has come into our world---for his dominion is vast and forever peaceful.

Luke challenges us not to be afraid when he says, "I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for ALL people...a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord". Tonight we begin once again. We start over. We will spend the next year being challenged by Jesus to listen to and understand his message. Jean always marveled at the innocence of a new born baby. Every baby radiates the glow of Christ. The softness and gentleness of a child draws everyone to them. Everyone wants to hold the new born baby. Jean would remark for our 2 children that when they were born, we cherished and loved them unconditionally and do today and will do forever. We like Mary spent the next 20 or so years helping them grow and understand who they were and supported them in their growth and decisions for their life.

Scriptures are filled tonight and the next few weeks with the presence of angels as they spoke to the shepherds in the fields and to Joseph and Mary to go back to their home land by a different route as Herod was out to find them. Mary was perplexed at Jesus as He grew up. The scriptures do not tell us much about the young boy Jesus; what he liked; who he played with; was he a good athlete; what jokes did he tell as a boy; did he date; did he "hang out" with friends. It is so very tempting to try to keep Jesus as a baby, innocent and young. But Jesus grew up as we hear at the presentation in the temple---he grew in wisdom and knowledge before God. He came to understand his very unique ministry---as the Bishops at Vatican II wrote in Eucharistic Prayer IV---he was a person like us in all things but sin. So I guess he was a normal person like everyone else.

Jesus challenges us to once again stop our, at times, frenetic life; hit the pause button; hit the delete button and put in the trash can those things which are not of God.

Jesus challenges us throughout the year on how to reform our life. Jesus teaches us how to live and how to die; how to love and forgive; how to show compassion to the disenfranchised. Every Sunday there is a different message we receive from Jesus. Our challenge is to take the words of Jesus off the printed page and make them part of the fabric of our life.

There is no greater gift you will ever receive than what God gives you tonight. As the Gospel of Luke reminds us, "For tonight in the City of David a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord." The gift of Jesus himself is right before you waiting for you to open. Jesus' personal gift to you is his unconditional love for you. His love for you never becomes obsolete, never fades, never wears-out or needs to be upgraded. Jesus is waiting for you to open his gift of his life for you. Go ahead-reach out---open his gift. The gift of Jesus in your life will be all you will ever need. It is the new light shining the way to lead you out of darkness and gloom---it is the new light leading to peace within. If you have peace within your soul you will be able to recognize the peace of Christ in everyone else around you. If you can embrace Jesus in your life you will have a Merry Christmas-not only today but forever! So go ahead --- open this most precious gift. Jesus is waiting for you to welcome him into your life.

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