Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,
which means “God is with us.”
Dear Friends in Christ:
As we gather together for the Christmas liturgies this weekend, when I hear those words from the Prophet Isaiah invoked in the infancy narrative in Matthew’s Gospel, I am reminded of how much we really need to hear, and receive into our hearts, this most consoling message: that through the birth of Jesus Christ, God is with us. In so many ways and for a million different reasons, due in part to the brokenness of our world, and due in part to our own human frailty, we seem to forget that lifesaving truth, that God is with us!
At some point throughout these holy days, I invite you to spend a few minutes before the Christmas Creche, whether the beautiful one displayed here in our beautiful church, or perhaps in your own home. Gazing upon the creche I am reminded of the words of Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, who once said that “beginning in childhood and at every stage of our lives the Christmas Creche teaches us to contemplate Jesus, to experience God’s love for us, to feel and believe that God is with us and that we are with God.”
This is the one thing that each of us needs, and the newborn Christ extends that gift to us now: “to feel and believe that God is with us and that we are with God.” In so many ways it seems that we are living in a world that is lost and groping in the darkness. Peace, in some parts of the world, seems very distant. The human family, in so many ways, is suffering from sickness, violence, deep division, and from spiritual, moral, and material poverty. In some of our own families, we have experienced sorrow and loss, tragedy, and uncertainty about the future. And yet, through the mystery of God’s love and in accord with His providential plan, we gather to bear witness to light scattering the darkness of our world as Christ is born for you, for me, and for every human person and that in all things “God is with us, and we are with God.”
In the Gospel of Luke we hear how the Angel appeared to the Shepherds in the night, proclaiming to them: “Do not be afraid: for behold, I bring to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord.” Ponder that for a moment…our Savior, Jesus Christ, has been born for you. Christ is born for us! For each and every one of us, for all people of all time no matter who you are, where you come from, or what you’ve been through Christ is born for you. God is with you.
In order to embrace this lifesaving truth, to “feel and believe that God is with us and that we are with God,” we must first feel welcome. Bishop Robert Barron wrote, that “as one who called himself the Good Shepherd, Jesus was not simply exemplifying the generic virtue of inclusivity so valued today; rather he was acting in the very person of Yahweh gathering his scattered children. He was serving as host for many who would normally be excluded from polite society.” May we pray throughout these holy days that all may feel welcome in our Church, in our parish, and in our families. As the angels proclaimed, Christmas is about the “good news of great joy for all the people.” For God, no one is a stranger or excluded. But, as every human person is made in God’s own image and likeness, all are made in order “to feel and believe that God is with us and that we are with God.”
In the days approaching the birth of Christ, Mary and Joseph made their way from one forgotten outpost of the Roman Empire to the other. While their journey included physical peril, ours might be emotional: with a peaceful heart or one burdened by concerns, anxiety or sorrow. You may be full of enthusiasm or unsure about who God is and where life is leading you. You may be quietly reflective about what your life has been up to this point; or weary as you approach its final chapters. But together this Christmas, may we again “feel and believe that God is with us and that we are with God.”
In the birth of Christ, God made Himself accessible to humanity. Jesus came into this world like any other newborn baby, vulnerable, exposed, and entirely dependent on the love and care of his parents, needing human warmth and compassion. He was wrapped in swaddling clothes, and thirty three years later, he was bound, hanging nearly naked on a cross, with arms outstretched. Opened out to us in love. Jesus, fed at birth by Mary, now offers Himself as food for the world. “This is my body, which will be given up for you. This is my blood which will be shed for you. Do this in memory of me.” When we hear these words and make our way to the Eucharistic table this Christmas: “may we feel and believe that God is with us and that we are with God.”
May the peace of which the angels sang that first Christmas night be yours, both now and always. On behalf of myself, Father Anthony, Deacon Ernie, Deacon Marty, our parish staff, and our whole parish family, I wish you a blessed and Merry Christmas for you and your family.
Let’s all of us please pray for each other, our parish family, for all of our brothers and sisters who celebrate the Birth of Christ in New Haven, the Archdiocese of Hartford, and throughout the whole universal Church. Please know that I am praying for you, and I ask for your prayers for me, that as a result of our experiencing the birth of Christ, through the intercession of Saint Mary, Saint Joseph Saint Dominic, and Blessed Michael McGivney, we will reflect the presence of Jesus to the world, so that all may come to “feel and believe that God is with us and we are with God.”
Peace in Christ,