“Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means “God is with us.” (Matthew 1:23)
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
May the spirit of this holy season fill your hearts with joy and your homes with peace! Christmas celebrates the great truth sent by the Father, “the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.” (John 1:14)
From generation to generation, we remember the events of that holy night and we celebrate His Nativity. Recounting Jesus’ birth, we rejoice in our churches, in our families, and in our communities. At the coldest, darkest time of the whole year, God’s love warms our hearts and illuminates our journey in this world.
The message and meaning of Christmas can be lost in the noise heaped upon us by our secular culture’s message of consumerism; by an ever-growing divide in our political discourse regarding contentious issues of the day; and yes, even by some church leaders whose actions, or, in some cases, inactions have caused pain to many of our brothers and sisters.
It is in these uncertain times, that our feelings of anxiousness and loss can grip our lives, leaving us vulnerable to despair. It is important for us to remember that the world is mostly good. Why? Because we, as followers of the Risen Lord, can experience and share the birth of Christ not just on December 25th but every second of every day. We give birth to the Lord when we share the Love of Christ.
The darkness of humanity’s evil can be overcome by the light cast by Jesus’ birth. We are reminded in the first reading from the Christmas Mass at Dawn of the words of the prophet Isaiah – They shall be called “The Holy People, The Redeemed of the LORD.” (Isaiah 62:12) Earlier this year, Pope Francis gifted us with his Apostolic Exhortation, Gaudete et Exsultate (Rejoice and Be Glad). In it he encourages each one of us to be holy. We are frequently tempted to think that holiness is only for those who can withdraw from ordinary affairs to spend much time in prayer. That is not the case. We can be holy by laboring with integrity and skill in the service of our brothers and sisters, by living out our commitments with joy and working for the common good.
Christmas teaches us of the generosity of God and how generous we must be to one another, generous with our time, our good fortune, but most of all our forgiveness.
Merry Christmas! May your New Year be filled with the abundant blessings of the newborn Savior and may you embrace each day as an opportunity to welcome Christ with joy in your hearts, ever increasing in holiness.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Michael R. Cote
Bishop of Norwich