As we welcome this Christmas Day, we cannot but remember the many struggles and challenges that we have faced this past year. How often did our hearts imitate the lament of the holy men and women of Sacred Scripture who cried out to God for assistance in times of equal peril and fear? Even in our modern world that is blessed with the promise of vaccines that can fight the Coronavirus virus, who among us this past year was not humbled to admit the fragility of our own life? Who did not have their confidence shaken when faced with the sufferings of our neighbors and friends? Who among us did not wonder with anxiety what the future would bring?
In the light of such struggles during these dark and difficult months, we can ask one question today: what do we have to celebrate this Christmas? This pandemic has hung over our heads like a darkness that admitted little light to comfort us. What is there to celebrate?
My friends, the reason to celebrate is clear to the eyes of faith. We celebrate the promise of Christmas because of our deep conviction that God’s love, like a divine light, can pierce all darkness, no matter how deep or widespread it may be. Christmas celebrates the birth of the Son of God into a world mired in pain, suffering and challenge, born in a stable with only the animals to witness it. His birth brought the victory of God’s love into the world 2000 years ago and now invites us this Christmas to welcome His love into our own lives. For if we welcome His love into our hearts and homes, then our joy will be rekindled, our hope strengthened, and we will have strength to meet the challenges of our lives. We celebrate Christmas with joyful hearts because God’s love is real, found in our midst and has never left us even during the struggles of these past ten months.
In fact, long before this Christmas day, we have seen how the love of God broke through the darkness. It came through the love of women and men who cared for patients in hospitals, long term care facilities and nursing homes. The love of Christmas came through the self-sacrificing work of our teachers who guided our children through remote and in person learning. The love of Christmas shone through our essential workers who persevered in the face of tremendous adversity to help people to eat and survive, the ministry of our clergy who brought the sacraments to people in their hour of greatest need and the thousands of scientists whose tireless work has created vaccines that promise to protect us from the ravages of the COVID-19 virus. We celebrate the divine love of Christmas because it is already in our midst and we have seen it with our own eyes.
In March, it appeared as though the world would be shrouded in a pall of darkness that seemed impenetrable. Yet the darkness did not prevail. Christmas came in every moment when love was brought into the world and will come again, in all its beauty, when we silently kneel before the Christ Child and welcome His divine love that will never fade, never fail and never end.
Whenever we saw the inbreaking of God’s love in our midst, many of us were also surprised by the gift of joy. For joy is a divine gift that comes to the heart of any person who dares to believe that God’s love will never falter. Joy is the abiding sense that “all things shall be well” even when we face suffering, sorrow, and loss as we have experienced this year. Joy is the confident assurance that God’s love will conquer every challenge. Joy comes to every human heart that welcomes the love of Christmas both on December 25th and every day of the year.
As we look upon the Christ Child born this day, we cannot forget that the world into which Christ was born, much like ours, was weary. Yet, Christ made his home in such a world. He seeks to make His home in our world as well. Are we ready to welcome the light of His love into our communities, families and our hearts? Are we ready to celebrate His birth every day of our life?
I recognize that this Christmas will be very different for past years. Many of us will be unable to safely see our families or participate in traditions we hold sacred. Many Catholics are still unable to attend Mass. Thousands remain unemployed or underemployed. Some of us are celebrating Christmas with newly empty chairs around the table. However, Christ’s love is with us. Let us be strengthened and refreshed in that love.
To my brothers and sisters of different faiths, and to all people of good will, I pray that you will find peace and joy in this season, and I pray that you will never allow the world to extinguish the fire of hope in our hearts for a better, more loving, more compassionate future.
May we open our hearts to receive the promise of Christmas and may you and your family be blessed by the Christ Child, the light of the world, and find true joy in the New Year.