Jesus came into this world as a child, vulnerable and dependent. 

He made himself little so that we could love him. So that we could pick him up, hold him in our arms and take care of him, just as Mary and Joseph held him on that first Christmas night in Bethlehem.  

Jesus made himself a little child so that we could know how precious each one of us is to God. My prayer for us this Christmas is that we will fully realize the reality of God’s love for us.  

The revelation of Christmas is that God is our loving Father. 

Our Father! To understand God’s love we have to know that we are his children. Children of God! He loves you and me and he loves every one with a personal love. As a good Father loves his sons and his daughters. 

Jesus taught us that every hair on every head is numbered. That every child is born with an angel watching over him or her in heaven. That God cares for all and for our smallest needs. 

God wants only the best for his children, for you and for me. There is no sacrifice he will not make for us to be happy and at peace. He will go to any length to seek us out, to bring us back to him. Even sending his only begotten Son to suffer and die for us. 

In showing us the merciful face of our Father in heaven, Jesus revealed that every life is sacred and precious and has a purpose in our Father’s loving plan for the world. 

This was a radical message then and it is a radical message now. 

I still think this is perhaps the hardest Christian truth for people to accept. The universe is so vast — how can God possibly know and care for me? How can I be “somebody” to God when I’m living in this big, anonymous world where I am a nobody to almost everybody else? 

It sounds too good to be true. But Jesus taught us that it is true. Before the world began, God knew your name and mine and he had a plan for our lives. 

This is the promise of Christmas. And this promise is an invitation to each of us — an invitation to a new life as sons and daughters of God.  

Knowing that we are loved by God should free us from our fears, our pride and selfishness. Knowing his love should give us joy every day. It should change everything for us — how we relate to God and our relationships with others; how we see ourselves and how we understand our place in the world. 

What if we really believed that we are loved, that we are wanted, that we are needed by God? What if we really lived every day as if the Creator of the universe loves us with a parent’s love, as if each person we meet is loved as we are, and also has a part to play in the higher purposes of God’s love? 

So as we prepare for Christmas, let us pray for each other, that we may open our hearts to our Father’s love. 

He wants our joy, our happiness. And we find that happiness — when we stay close to Jesus. This is where our happiness comes from. It comes from being with God, being near to Jesus, feeling his love and presence in our lives.  

Jesus became a child of Mary so that we could become a child of God. And as God’s children we are called to continue Jesus’ mission in the world — the mission of his Church, his family. 

Christmas is also a call to renew our sense of purpose and belonging to the Church. 

Christmas calls us again to walk the pathways of this world with Jesus, in the company of our brothers and sisters in the Church. To live as Jesus did — with kindness for all and compassion and gentle understanding. 

The mission that began on Christmas continues in you and in me. 

Knowing that we are loved by God, we should live to share that love with others through works of mercy and acts of justice — seeking the Kingdom that God intended for his children. A world where no one is a stranger, where everyone is welcomed and wanted and nobody is discarded or marginalized.

Please pray for me during this holy season and I am praying for you and your families. 

Merry Christmas to all of you! 

May our Blessed Mother Mary, the Mother of Jesus and the Mother of each one of us, help us all to know the love of God our Father that comes to us on Christmas. 

Some of the material is part of a forthcoming Time book "What Did Jesus Ask," edited by Elizabeth Dias, available  Oct. 27.