Christmas Message 2020
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; Upon those who lived in a land of gloom a light has shone. ”
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
These words of the prophet Isaiah, taken from the first reading proclaimed at the Vigil Mass for the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord, seem particularly poignant for us this year. As we celebrate Christmas and draw near to the end of this calendar year, I think that many of us feel that this has indeed been a year dominated by darkness and gloom. This year has certainly been a difficult one: from the ongoing pandemic that has changed our lives in so many ways and sadly has taken the lives of family members and friends throughout the world, to the devastation wrought by numerous wildfires, hurricanes and natural disasters, continued racial division, as well as what has been one of the most bitterly contentious election cycles in the history of our nation. Chaos and darkness are all around us. It has become increasingly clear, therefore, that our world needs the light of the Lord Jesus now more than ever.
In commemorating His birth at Christmas, it is important we remember that we celebrate something far more profound than simply the Lord’s “birthday.” What we celebrate is the ultimate triumph of light over darkness. As Saint John writes, referring to the Lord, in the prologue to his account of the Gospel, “…the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5) While the world was yet still in darkness, a great light broke forth on the first Christmas night: the unchanging truth of God’s abundant love for His people - a love so pure that it took flesh in the person of Jesus, born in the manger at Bethlehem; a love so deep that it enabled the Lord to endure the agony of His passion and death on the cross; a love so powerful that it would destroy even sin and death itself in the glory of His resurrection, affording each of us the opportunity to share in the eternal joy of Heaven.
While our gatherings and Christmas celebrations will indeed be different this year, it is vitally important that we remember this central truth: nothing and no one can change the fact that God has sent His Divine Son into the world and that He suffered, died and rose again for our redemption. The same risen Lord Jesus likewise continues to be present through His body, the Church, as the true light which can dispel the darkness and gloom present in our own lives as well as in the world around us. As individual members of His Church, the Lord is now calling each of us, in the midst of our present challenges and difficulties, to allow His light to shine brightly through the witness of our lives, that, as His instruments, we may bring much needed love, hope, and peace to our families, communities and world, here and now.
And so, in this season of light and hope, let us give thanks to God for the tremendous gift He has given to the world in the person of Jesus and spend some time in prayer, asking how He is calling us to reflect and radiate the light of His love to others.
May you, your families and loved ones have a truly merry Christmas and a New Year filled God’s blessings!
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Michael R. Cote
Bishop of Norwich