Thursday, December 25, 2014

A Blessed Christmas

From the bottom of my heart, I want to wish all of you a blessed Christmas.

This day is always filled with a joy that runs deep within our spirits. That joy is an echo of the song of the angels proclaiming to the shepherds that Jesus, the Saviour is born. It rises up from the depth of our soul. Jesus is born! The good news inspires us to gather here this morning and celebrate the gift of God made known to us in this newborn King.

Christmas day has inspired some of the most beautiful music ever written. Most of us know all these carols by heart and have been humming them to ourselves throughout these past weeks. We look forward to singing them at parties or when we gather for Mass. For many of us, Christmas hymns rank among our favorite songs. It is not just because those songs bring back memories of our childhood or conjure up images of holiday bliss, but because they speak to a core truth of human existence. When we were in the dark, Jesus came to bring us light. When we were lost, Jesus came to find us. When we were enslaved to sin, Jesus came to set us free. That is the true meaning of this feast. That is the true reason we gather here today. It is the cause of our joy.

Pope Benedict XVI in his book, Jesus of Nazareth, asked a question that most of us may have asked from time to time. What difference did Jesus’ make? Since His birth there is still suffering and sin. He was not able yet to put an end to wars or to violence. What did Jesus come to bring, then? Our Holy Father gives a simple yet profound answer, “Jesus came to bring us God.” As our second reading from the letter to the Hebrews puts it, Jesus is the exact representation of the Father’s being. Whoever sees Jesus, sees God. Whoever listens to Jesus, listens to God.

Because of the birth of Jesus, God is never far from us. He is at our side in good times and in bad times. It is true that we continue to suffer. However, now God suffers with us. It is true that we continue to fall into temptation. But now our Heavenly Father graciously forgives us through the blood of His Son. It is true that all of us will one day die, but we can hold onto the hope of eternal life held out to us through Jesus’ death and resurrection. The human heart desires nothing less than God Himself. Now a real friendship with God is possible for each of us because of the miracle of this Christmas day.

How, then, can we experience the joy of Christmas every day throughout the year? How can the blessings of Jesus’ birth be ours when the decorations come down and the dark winter drags our spirits down? We experience the gift of Jesus all year long simply by going to Mass. Whenever we gather to celebrate the Eucharist, Jesus Himself is present in our midst. It is His voice we hear when the Scriptures are proclaimed. He Himself is teaching us and imparting His wisdom to us, just as He did to His disciples. In a most remarkable way, we receive Jesus in the gift of His Body and Blood. At Mass, the bread and wine become truly the Body and Blood of Christ. It is no mere symbol or representation but the real Body and Blood of Jesus. The One whom the shepherds left their fields to see and whom the wise men traveled far to behold comes to us in the miracle of the Eucharist. Right here the blessing of Christmas is made real every Sunday, indeed every day.

That means that no matter how inspiring the preaching is, no matter how holy the priest or deacon is, no matter how well the choir sings, we receive the same awesome gift at every Mass. Why would we ever want to miss out on it? What could fill us with more grace and blessings than going to Mass would? Why would we want to settle for less?

The good news is simply this, “God sent His only Son into the world that whoever believes in Him may not die but have eternal life.” God loves each and every one of us. And He wants us to know how much He loves us. He could think of no better way of showing His love than by sending His only Son to share our broken human condition and, eventually, to die. God loves us not because of anything we have done or could do. God loves us simply because He is love itself. There is nothing we can do to make Him love us more or to make Him love us less. All this He has revealed to us through His Son whose birth we celebrate today.

There is a reason that we were all called here today just as there was a reason that the shepherds were called to the manger and the wise man were drawn to Bethlehem by the star. God wants to speak to our hearts. He wants to urge us to stop striving after what cannot fully satisfy us. He wants to plead with us to stop trying to make it on our own. He wants to reassure us that we do not have to struggle alone. This day, our Heavenly Father wants us to turn to His Son, the One He sent to save us. He wants us to find in Him true and lasting joy. And He wants us to share that joy with others. That is the meaning of this Christmas day. That is what makes this day and every day blessed. Jesus, our Saviour, is with us. Let heaven and nature sing!

(image by Marisol Sousa)

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