How synonymous Christmas is with home and family! And how fitting, for the spirit of Christmas necessitates sharing time with those we love most.

The birth of Jesus brought forth love into His very holy family. The birth of Jesus brings forth love into our families. There is a real need to share the tremendous gift given to us in the birth of our Savior, with those who mean so much to us.

Since I feel so strongly about the concept of Church as family, and since Christmas is a family-centered time of year, I would like to share some thoughts about their relationship with you. These thoughts are directed especially toward those who, for whatever reasons, have not found the Church to be family for them.

As a Catholic priest, I am most aware and conscious of so many who do not practice their faith today. They are separated from our family. For some, the Church has let them down, has failed them. For others, there has been a shift of values and priorities in their lives. Again, for some, it might be no more than mere laziness or not making God the priority they would like. For all, there is hurt and pain that comes from separation.

The birth of Love into the world at Christmas, then, provides as good an opportunity as there will ever be for one concerned priest to say on behalf of his concerned Church: COME HOME FOR CHRISTMAS!

We miss you. We need you. We want you to return. We really care about you. We do because God cares about you and loves you very much. We will be much better with you as a part of our family.

If we have let you down, have failed you, please accept our sincere apology and our promise to make amends and, despite all our shortcomings, to show you our love. If your values have left something to be desired, please know how willing the Lord is to forgive, to give you a new beginning and to share with you the gift of peace.

If it is only laxity, please allow these few words to be a humble reminder of how precious every moment is to all of us who have been put in this world to serve God and, as members of God’s family, to give God praise and worship.

We, as God’s family, pray that we might end the pain that comes from separation, that we might be the hands that our newborn Savior uses to reach out to all His sisters and brothers, but especially to those who have been alienated. And we pray that home is where you will want to be for Christmas and a part of the family in the days, weeks, months and years to follow.

Msgr. Jim Gehl is pastor of St. Euphrasia Church, Granada Hills.

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