Patience, planning will help us all through crowded Christmas

As the Church Prays
Michael Podrebarac is the archdiocesan consultant for the liturgy office.

by Michael Podrebarac

You’ll be reading this about Oct. 27, but the timing is right, because we’re all going to need some time to prepare for CHRISTMAS ON A MONDAY (DUN-DUN-DUUUUN!).

Yes, once again, Dec. 25 this year falls on a Monday, which means Christmas Eve is on a Sunday, which is also the Fourth Sunday of Advent.

But which does NOT mean a “two-for-one” Mass special.

No, you cannot go to Mass on Christmas Eve and have it also count for Sunday. The church simply doesn’t do things that way.

The final Sunday of Advent is important, and so is the feast of Our Lord’s birth. They’re both important, and they are both obligatory as far as Mass attendance goes.

Back-to-back as they are, they will present both challenges and opportunities for priests and deacons, for pastoral musicians, for the folks who prepare the sacred art and environment, for those coordinating family gatherings and for “kids from 1-to-92.”

We all know the challenges. So let’s consider a few opportunities here, and then prepare ahead.

Families: Consider attending Saturday evening Mass for the Fourth Sunday of Advent and then either Christmas Eve or Christmas morning for the Lord’s birth.

In between, make something special of placing the infant Jesus in your home Nativity scene and taking a little time to pray with the children there.

Pastors: Consider adding an additional Saturday anticipated Mass for those who would do better with a little more time between the two celebrations. Consider also your “noon” Sunday Mass and whether or not it might be prudent to eliminate it on Dec. 24 for an added Saturday evening Mass.

Consider also how your homilies on the Annunciation Gospel reading for Sunday and the Nativity reading for Christmas can work together. These two mysteries will be as seamless as ever this year.

Musicians: Consider how some carols can effectively be used for both celebrations. A few come to mind: “The Angel Gabriel”; “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming”; “O Little Town of Bethlehem” (verses 1 and 4 for Sunday, adding the other verses later); “It Came upon the Midnight Clear,” etc.

Art and Environment Volunteers: Consider building gradually toward Christmas in your Advent settings, perhaps even putting the trees in place but not lighting them until Christmas, preparing an Advent manger scene to welcome the arrival of Mary, Joseph and Jesus on Christmas Eve.

A few strategically placed poinsettias, with more added later might work. Gaudete Sunday could really serve as a turning point toward Christmas this year. But start subtle and build from there.

And when any are feeling especially stressed, take a few moments and Google “Linus Christmas speech” for some needed perspective.

It’ll all work out just fine. It always has.

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