The pews are packed, and the parking lot is like I-25 at rush hour. It’s no secret — Christmas Masses are a bit more crowded than your average Sunday.
“It is a source of great joy,” said Father Tom Coyte, pastor at St. Bernadette in Lakewood. “You want the Church to be full.”
Whether it be college students back home visiting their parents, families that haven’t found the time for Mass in a few months, or just someone who felt moved to attend a Christmas service, priests know they have a chance to reach an expanded audience on Dec. 24 and 25.
“How do you receive them is the question,” said Father Coyte. “What experience are they going to have at church this time, that just might whet their appetite that there is something more here than they realize. That maybe there is something here that they are missing that makes them feel like coming back.”
Simple, and Hopeful
“I think the most important thing is to be positive and welcoming,” said Father David Allen, pastor at Christ on the Mountain in Lakewood. “And to say, ‘We are so glad everyone is here, and it is a wonderful night or day to be together.’
“I try to have a message of hope, and also to try and draw illustrations or analogies that are connected with what they experience in their lives,” said Father Allen. “And try to not make it really complicated on a theological level.”
That’s why Father Allen said he likes to engage the children in the homily, because a simple message can resonate with everyone.
“When you incorporate kids and everyday things, I think that helps, especially with people who are not as familiar with the liturgy,” said Father Allen. “I think they will connect more with the preaching.”
A timeless message
In preparing for his Christmas homily, Father Chris Uhl, O.M.V., said it’s important to remember the message is not coming from him.
“When you are developing a homily, you are praying about it and asking God to help you and inspire you,” said Father Uhl, pastor at Holy Ghost in Denver.
And even though the story of Christmas is the same every year, Father Uhl said there is never a shortage of themes to talk about.
“I think that is one of the beauties of the Christmas liturgy, that there are so many things that you can draw from,” said Father Uhl. “When you think of Christ coming into the world there are so many ways you can look at a Gospel passage on what happened on Christmas Day.
“You can look at our Blessed Mother, at St. Joseph, you can look at cosmic things happening in the heavens and on earth with angels in the sky. There are themes of rich and poor… there are the Gentiles and the Israelites and the Jewish people that Jesus came to. There are so many things that you can focus on, and very often they are very simple and very beautiful.”
Peace and Love
And even if some of the people won’t be back again for a while, Father Coyte said he hopes the hour at Mass gives them a few moments of peace, and that they leave knowing they are loved by the Heavenly Father.
“We want everyone, whoever they are, to come in the door and feel the general embrace of the Good Shepherd,” said Father Coyte. “Maybe help them to see it is good to take a little time and settle down a little bit, and not be so focused on the business that the world calls us to.
“What we want is for people to say, ‘This is a good place to be.’”