Dear Community and Friends of the Church of St. Francis of Assisi, May the Lord give you peace.

We light our fourth Advent candle and have completed the wreath. How has the journey been for you? Each Advent is an opportunity for a new beginning and deepening of our relationships with God and our world. How blessed we are to make this journey together.

I thank you for your participation in the life of the community this season.

Please join us on Sunday afternoon for the annual Carols with the Choir. Our musicians have prepared a spectacular program to engage our imaginations with beauty and wonder.

One of the blessings of this Advent has been the Soup and Scripture gatherings on Monday evenings. Meredith has prepared delicious soups, and the conversations have been very engaging. Each table had time to get to know one another and to share their insights on the Gospel. Many also shared how the text opened them to new ways of seeing themselves and the presence of God in their lives. I suspect we will begin again in Lent.

This Sunday, we hear the Annunciation to Joseph. Unlike Luke’s Gospel, where the Annunciation is to Mary, Matthew tells us of Joseph’s encounter with the Angel. Joseph is told not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife. He takes her into his home, unaware of the unexpected journey that this affirmation of God’s invitation will mean. He will encounter homelessness as they arrive in Bethlehem, become a refugee as he flees into Egypt, and experience the parent’s fear of a lost child. When we say yes to love, we never know where it will lead. Saying yes to love is saying yes to the one who says, do not be afraid; what you are about is nurturing “Emmanuel” —God with us.

As we approach Christmas, let us continue to pray for peace. We pray for peace in our homes, communities, nation, and world. Jesus, Emmanuel, the bearer of God’s peace, liberation, and healing, was born into a violent world. He died a violent death, and when he was raised, he offered peace. Our message continues to be peace rooted in God’s love for all.

Wishing you a blessed and peaceful Christmas,

Thomas M. Gallagher, ofm