Merry Christmas!

12-23-2018From Fr. Antony's DeskFr. John J. Barbella

I want to begin by thanking all those who took tags and brought gifts for the Giving Tree. Your generosity provided gifts for some 200 children – and many elderly parishioners, too. It is a testimony to your charity and faith!

Thanks also to the Boy Scouts, who kept moving the gifts to Mercy Hall for safekeeping all weekend. Their efforts ensured that the many gifts did not start blocking the aisles and become a hazard! It is also an example of how many groups and people work together to make good things happen here at St. Philip and St. James!

Last Friday I had a great time at our Parish School's Nativity Pageant. The students told the story of Christ's birth – with lots of beautiful singing. They also acted out scenes like the Annunciation, Visitation, Nativity, and Epiphany – to name a few. It was a wonderful, joy-filled telling of the holy story of Christmas! Thanks to all who were involved!

Over the years my celebration of Christmas has changed in some ways – and stayed the same in others. As a child, I used to wake my younger sisters early in morning, before dawn. We would race to see what Santa had brought, and were never disappointed. My poor parents, who probably hadn't been in bed very long, would come down to join us as we opened presents and played with new toys.

We would go to Mass that morning (remember, the only Christmas Eve Mass back then was Midnight Mass). After that we'd have an early dinner – Italian food that my mother had been working on for days! Then we'd pile in the car and head to New York to visit my maternal grandparents. Somehow, Santa would stop there, too, and leave some presents. We would see all our aunts and uncles and cousins, and often stop at the homes of some great aunts and uncles, too. It was a long day – filled with family, friends, and, of course, faith.

Today my Christmas is filled with celebrations of Holy Mass. I am awed to have the privilege to offer Holy Mass on Christmas Eve and Day, and wouldn't trade it for the world. My excitement these days comes from seeing all of you at Holy Mass, and from praying and celebrating with you. The Solemn Mass at Midnight – that I was too young to attend as a child – has become the very center of my Christmas celebration! I hope that many of you will join me at the Solemn Midnight Mass.

After all the Masses are over on Christmas Day, I visit family. Instead of visiting grandparents, I usually wind up at the home of my sister, Christine, on Christmas. My mom is always there, enjoying her family the way her parents enjoyed their family years ago. After a wonderful meal, I head back to Phillipsburg, filled with the joy of another Christmas.

I hope your Christmas is filled with family, friends, and the joy that Christ's birth once brought to Mary, Joseph, and the Shepherds! Let's pray for each other on Christmas and always!

Merry Christmas!
Fr. John