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Updated: Dec 21, 2022

Dear Sacred Heart and St. Mary on the Lake,

Merry Christmas! Enjoy these days with your families and friends.

I have been struck by the Nativity scene at Sacred Heart in a particular way this year. Over the course of Advent, the different figures slowly make their way across the front of the sanctuary until they arrive at the proper time. It is a reminder that we are meant to be swept up into that movement. Just like they all had a role to play, so God has a role for us. We are meant to be a part of the story.

Visiting the classrooms at Sacred Heart, I was asked why there are always an ox and donkey in the manger scene. (This icon pictured here is a typical representation of how they are depicted in Christian art through the centuries.) They are there as a fulfillment of a prophecy from the opening lines of the Prophet Isaiah: “The ox knows its owner and the donkey its master’s manger; Israel has no knowledge; my people have

no understanding” (Isa 1:3). We are meant to learn something from these two animals who, symbolic of creation itself, recognize their creator. The tradition continues that the ox and donkey, often pictured looking right into the manger, use their breath to keep him warm that first Christmas night. They too then had a role to play in God’s plan.

An important lesson in all this is that we don’t want to be shown up by an ox and donkey who recognized their creator. We don’t want an ox and donkey to be smarter than us! Then, just as they found their role, we strive to live the role God has for us. Don’t discount the place in life that God has you in right now. I know sometimes we can feel helpless when facing the realities of life, and wonder if our efforts will have any impact. Does my being faithful in my small part of the world affect the bigger picture? Yes, and a thousand yeses! Such faithfulness is what changes the world. Very often what the world sees as small, is much bigger in the eyes of God. These two simple animals recognized their creator, and then did what they were able to do. Was something like warming the bed of the Savior on his first night in this world a small thing?

No, and neither are the things we do whenever we are faithful. This Christmas, marvel at what God does for us, just how far He is willing to go to enter our lives. Then we recognize Him and are faithful in the place God has us in right now. Doing so, we too welcome the Savior.

God Bless,

Fr. Todd

I also want to thank you for your generosity. I know this is a season of year-end giving and lots of deserving organizations asking for our support. On behalf of Sacred Heart Parish and School, of St. Mary on the Lake, of our Food Pantries, I want to say thank you—thank you for remembering us, thank you for your support that makes our Missions possible. God is good and you are good.

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