Many years ago, on a sparkling clear Christmas Eve, a friend and I stood beneath the stars on a very cold and silent winter’s night. Our parents and siblings were having dinner inside the house, celebrating one of the eight days of Hanukah. Wrapped in a warm, jacket, barely audible from behind a large scarf, Mark lifted his head to the sky and said, “I don’t know about Jesus, or about what we’re supposed to believe about this night, but I know that something very special has occurred.”
Like Mark, some people will come to our churches this Feast of the Nativity, unsure of what they believe, but knowing deeply within their hearts that something special has occurred.
“Christmas is a time of coming to terms with God’s all embracing and redemptive love for us,” said the Archbishop of Canterbury. Perhaps what my friend Mark described as “special,” was a glimpse of God’s love and embrace, a mysterious “surrounding” for which he had no words.
God’s Word, spoken through a human voice and amplified by a divine heart, is for our well-being and fulfillment. He announces a truth from which we cannot hide, and through our persistent engagement with its message, we discover a new life has been born within. Through Jesus, God holds us and loves us with a loyalty that inspires us to reach out and hold the human family.
In these times of economic insecurity and grave uncertainty, the most important gift that we can give is ourselves; our steadfastness with others, our loyalty to the promises of God’s kingdom, our generosity in stilling the anxiety of others, our capacity to forgive and set free those living in the bondage of shame. The light of God leads us to peoples in whose heart Christ has already found a home, and from which we will discover anew the gift of God’s profound love.
With the pains of poverty or near poverty facing over 40% of our population and the persecution of Christians prevalent in so many countries in the world—we can learn much from the grace and faithfulness revealed through the deep heartache of these, our sisters and brothers, who are so rich in the spirit of Christ.
We may feel powerless to help, but I assure you that they are strengthened by the knowledge that their plight is not forgotten, and that the prayers of others unite us across otherwise insurmountable boundaries. So, we pray for all for whom Christ entered this world and died for its redemption. We pray, and we write letters; we share financial resources, and we spend time in listening. We give and we receive, a hundred fold. Through the power of the Word enfleshed, the Father’s love is born into the world, and into each of us. It is our joy to receive this gift as invitation and opportunity as we join in the long line of saints through whose lives others have experienced forgiveness and liberty.
To my priests and deacons, I know how challenging it is to focus on the word of God, when many look to you to attend to pastoral and liturgical details. May this holy season of the Nativity give you time for stillness in the face of such awesome responsibilities, and a deep knowledge of God’s devotion to you who have chosen to follow him in such a wondrous and generous calling.
May you have a Blessed Christmas, a joyous celebration of the Holy Name and the Feast of the Epiphany, and a season that reveals Jesus’ all encompassing love for you.