Christmas Message 2019
“Let us go, then, to Bethlehem to see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.”
My dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
Each year as we commemorate the birth of the Lord Jesus at Christmas, it is important for us to encounter the mystery and importance of the Lord’s Incarnation with renewed wonder, gratitude and love. In calling to mind that first Christmas, so lovingly evoked by the manger scenes set up in our parishes and homes, it can be easy to overlook the presence of the humble shepherds of Bethlehem. It was these shepherds who were the first both to hear and respond to the Good News of the birth of the Savior, proclaimed to them by the Angels in their joyful hymn of praise: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests." (Luke 2:14) As the angels returned to Heaven and the unadorned reality of that first Christmas began to dawn upon them with the first light of morning, they left their flocks and set out in haste to encounter the infant Lord Jesus in the quiet stillness of the manger.
The scene depicted by St. Luke is a stark one: there with the Blessed Mother and Saint Joseph, we find the Only Begotten Son of the Eternal Father, the Word made flesh, lying in a feeding trough; the King of the Universe, the Savior, announced by the angels as both Messiah and Lord, surrounded only by humble shepherds and farm animals. The poignant humility of Jesus' birth stands in contrast to the transformative power of the Incarnation. There, in the stable of Bethlehem we encounter a child who would embody the complete, all-encompassing and limitless nature of God's love. In the infant Jesus, God reaches down into the messiness of our human existence, embraces our poverty and shares in our suffering, even to the point of sacrificing his very life on the cross to save us from our sins. It is in this supreme sacrifice, foreshadowed even at His birth, that we find the ultimate expression of God's love for all humanity.
It is important for us also to make this mystical journey to the manger each year, following the example of the shepherds, in order to remind ourselves about the true meaning and powerful reality of Christmas. All too often, despite our best intentions during Advent, we get so caught up in the commercialization of the season that we fail to express our gratitude for the God who, in the humble stillness of that night long ago, emptied himself completely into the world to become Emmanuel, God with us. By His birth, life, death and resurrection, Jesus has won a share in the very life of God for those who believe. This, dear brothers and sisters, is the true and ultimate gift that we receive at Christmas! The only gift the Lord asks in return is that we share God's complete, total, life-giving love with others, especially the poor, the marginalized, the outcast and forgotten.
As we again recall the great mystery of God’s love this Christmas, may we, like the shepherds of old, approach the manger and adore our infant King with hearts full of gratitude. Then, let us allow His transformative love we have encountered to work through us as His disciples to bring hope, peace and joy to our world today.
May you, your families and loved ones have a truly merry Christmas and a New Year filled with God’s blessings!
Sincerely yours in Christ,