Dear Friends in Jesus Christ…,
Merry Christmas!!! Again and again the beauty of this Christmas Gospel touches our hearts: a beauty that is the splendor of truth. “The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” Again it astonishes us that God makes himself a child so that we may love him, so that we may dare to love him, and as a child trustingly lets himself be taken into our arms and hold him close to our hearts. It is as if God were saying: I know that my glory frightens you, and that you are trying to assert yourself in the face of my grandeur. So now I am coming to you as a child, so that you can accept me and love me.
God has come to us to be with us. The Lord is here. From this moment, God is truly “God with us”. No longer is he the distant God who can in some way be perceived from afar. He has entered the world. He is close to us. The words of the risen Christ to his followers are addressed also to us: “Lo, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Mt 28:20). “For you the Savior is born” God now reminds us of the message that the Angel announced to the shepherds. It is a message that cannot leave us indifferent. If it is true, it changes everything. If it is true, it also affects me and you. Like the shepherds, then, I (you too) too must say: “Come on, I want to go to Bethlehem to see the new born king.” The story of the shepherds is included in the Gospel for a reason. They show us the right way to respond to the message that we too have received. What is it that these first witnesses of God’s incarnation have to tell us? The first thing we are told about the shepherds is that they were on the watch – they could hear the message precisely because they were awake. We must be awake, so that we can hear the message. The next thing the shepherds teach is they acted in haste. After listening to the Angel’s message, the shepherds said one to another: “‘Let us go over to Bethlehem’ … they went at once” (Lk 2:15f.). They gave priority to God. In our daily life, it is not like that. For most people, the things of God are not given priority, the things of God do not impose themselves on us directly. And so the great majority of us tend to postpone them. First we do what seems urgent here and now. In the list of priorities God is often more or less at the end. We can always deal with that later; we tend to think. The Gospel tells us that God should be the highest priority. If anything in our life deserves haste without delay, then, it is God’s work alone.
One more thing I would like to share with you that the shepherds teach us. Some commentators point out that the shepherds, the simple souls, were the first to come to Jesus in the manger and to encounter the Redeemer of the world. The wise men from the East, representing those with social standing and fame, arrived much later. The commentators go on to say: this is quite natural. The shepherds lived nearby. They only needed to “come over” (cf. Lk 2:15), as we do when we go to visit our neighbors. The wise men, however, lived far away. They had to undertake a long and arduous journey in order to arrive in Bethlehem. And they needed guidance and direction. Today too there are simple and lowly souls who live very close to the Lord. They are, so to speak, his neighbors and they can easily go to see him. But most of us in the world today live far from Jesus Christ, the incarnate God who came to dwell among us. We live our lives by philosophies, amid worldly affairs and occupations that totally absorb us and are a great distance from the manger. He calls each one of us, so that we too can say: “Come on, ‘let us go over’ to Bethlehem – to the God who has come to meet us. Lastly, one more thing the phrase “there was no room for them in the inn” raises a question, what would happen if Mary and Joseph were to knock at my door. Would there be room for them? Saint John says “he came to his own home, and his own people received him not” (Jn 1:11). The great moral question of our attitude towards the homeless, towards refugees and migrants, takes on a deeper dimension: do we really have room for God when he seeks to enter under our roof? Do we have time and space for him? Do we not actually turn away God himself? We begin to do so when we have no time for God. What about God in our home? Do we have time for him and a place for him? Some of the things that take God and his place and time away from us is smart phone, Xbox, tablets and other electronic devices. The inventions were done with the purpose getting people closer who are far away from each other. But they are getting people far from each other who are closer. I have a favor to ask you all. If you think it is possible, please take them away from you at least at the time of Christmas dinner and gift sharing. Have time for the God who is close to you that’s your own family. If you have no time for each other and your family here on earth, it will be impossible for you to have time for God who is in heaven. May this Christmas celebration be a time of joy and peace that brings us close to God.
God Bless You,