Merry Christmas! As I write these words, I am gathering my thoughts to prepare for the liturgies of Christmas.
I don’t know about you, but for me Christmas is a time when I reflect on the year that is passing away, the new year that lies before me and, in a deeper way, every Christmas brings to mind the many past Christmases of my life.
This is part of the beauty and the mystery of Christmas.
At the beginning of the midnight Mass for Christmas, it is customary to recite the beautiful “Proclamation of the Birth of Christ” — a reading of history from the beginning of the world:
“Today, the 25th day of December, unknown ages from the time when God created the heavens and the earth and then formed man and woman in his own image. … Several thousand years after the flood. … One thousand years from the anointing of David as king. … The 42nd year of the reign of Octavian Augustus. … Jesus Christ, eternal God and Son of the eternal Father, desiring to sanctify the world by his most merciful coming … was born in Bethlehem of Judea of the Virgin Mary. Today is the nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh.”
Christmas changes everything. Because on Christmas the eternal God enters into our human reality of time and space.
Christmas changes “time” — past, present and future. Christmas shows us that time is not a series of “chance” events or random things that happen.
Christmas tells us that all of time has a direction — everything from the start of creation is leading to the nativity of Jesus. Not only the history of nations, but also the life-story of every person. The meaning of our lives, our time on earth, is now wrapped up in the event of Christmas.
Christmas changes “space” — everything now points back to the manger in Bethlehem and the Child we find there. No matter who we are, or where we live, or what time we are living in — the pathway of our life now passes through Bethlehem, through Jesus Christ. Every life begins again at the manger.
Christmas is a new morning for the world and a new morning for each one of us. Christmas says: Yes, we can find love. Yes, we can know mercy. Yes, we can lead a happy life that leads us to heaven.
I’m sure you have noticed how a baby seems to change everything in his or her environment.
When a mother walks into a room carrying her baby — the baby is like a magnet that draws everything towards it. Every one is aware of the child’s presence and everyone wants to draw near and be close to the child.
Suddenly, when there is a child in the room, everyone is happy and smiling and gentle. People speak soft words to the child; they look in the baby’s eyes with expectation. Most of all, it makes us feel so good when the baby smiles at us; the child’s smile is like a gift or an affirmation.
For at least a short while, the presence of a baby can change our priorities and our personalities.
The child in the manger changes the “room” in the same way, but in a permanent way. God comes as a child to “disarm” us. He comes to break down our natural fears and resistance and excuses. Coming as a child, his presence does not intimidate us but invites us.
Jesus comes into the world with an “agenda.” Coming as the Son, he draws us into the loving and merciful heart of our Father.
In revealing the Father, the Son reveals that we are created to be sons and daughters of the Father. Christmas tells us that we can become a new creation in the image of Jesus. We can become a child of God, as he is. God’s family is our family now. The Father of Jesus is our Father. The Mother of Jesus is our Mother.
This is the beautiful mystery that is revealed at Christmas. God is our Father — he really and truly loves us. He is alive in the world and in our lives!
So this Christmas, I am praying for you and your families. I hope you will pray for me and my ministry. Let’s pray together for the poor, the lonely and the lost — and let’s pray that we can be a blessing in their lives and in the lives of everyone we meet.
May our Blessed Mother watch over you and give you Christmas joy every day — the joy that comes in finding the love of God and knowing his mercy.