CNS/BRIDGEMAN IMAGES
The adoration of the shepherds is depicted in this 17th-century painting by Bartolome Esteban Murillo. The feast of the Nativity of Christ, a holy day of obligation, is celebrated Dec. 25.
CNS/BRIDGEMAN IMAGES The adoration of the shepherds is depicted in this 17th-century painting by Bartolome Esteban Murillo. The feast of the Nativity of Christ, a holy day of obligation, is celebrated Dec. 25.
The world has rejoiced in the story and promise of Christmas from generation to generation. Touching and inspiring countless numbers of people like nothing else, we need only look at the number of traditions that mark this happy and holy season to see that it truly is the most wonderful time of the year.

Carols and lights, the exuberance of children and company of family and friends, Christmas trees and the exchange of gifts, expressions of good cheer and the jubilation that fills our hearts as we sing O Come All Ye Faithful to begin Midnight Mass – all these are signs of the yearnings of the human spirit and the power of Christmas to bring joy to the world, overcoming all attempts to commercialize this blessed time.

At the heart of Christmas is the recognition that we are all loved fully and unconditionally, as imperfect as we may be. God is concerned about each of us. He loves every one of us and in his Son Jesus, born into the human family of Mary and Joseph, the Lord invites all of humanity to be his family too, to be his sisters and brothers, adopted children of his heavenly Father.

Christmas is the story of joy and beauty, peace and good will, salvation and new life in the wondrous Good News of the newborn Child of Bethlehem. In the birth of Jesus, humbly laid in the manger, God has come to dwell among us, fulfilling our deepest need for a love that is infinite, stable and sure (Luke 2:7-11, Matthew 1:23). Never again do we need to feel distant from a transcendent, invisible, infinite and spiritual divinity.

The almighty and eternal Lord has even become one of us! By the Incarnation, he has fully entered into our humanity, taking on our wounded and limited human nature so that he might make of us a new creation – transforming us by his redemptive love so that we might share in his eternal divine life.

The celebration of Christmas – and its ongoing reality – is not only for Christians, but for everyone. No event in human experience is more exciting or life-changing than Jesus, the Word made flesh, coming into our lives. In him, we know that we are not alone in the universe. Life is not futile and hopeless. Each of us is loved.

Jesus brings light and hope and meaning to the darkness and mystery of the human condition. He makes sense of our lives, brings order to the turmoil of the world, heals us of our spiritual wounds and even saves us from death.

All that God wants for us shines forth in Jesus, the Savior who is born to us two thousand years ago and whose living presence endures in the world in the Holy Spirit and his in mystical body, the Church (Luke 2:11, Matthew 28:20). Many of us will celebrate his birth at Christmas with festivities, meals and presents. But for some people, there is nothing under the tree, no feast on the table – there is “no room for them in the inn” (cf. Luke 2:7).

Having been blessed by God with the unmerited, gratuitous perfect gift of his Son Jesus, it is only right that we should give something back. The spirit of Christmas should spur us to share the abiding presence and love of the Lord, and invite those we meet to come taste the sweetness of the first fruits of a new humanity.

As we gather in adoration around the manger, let us be sure to offer the infant Jesus our own Christmas gifts by loving him and loving one another, by our daily acts of goodness and by recognizing him especially in the faces of people in need, so that by giving to them, we give to him (Matthew 25:35). By our individual loving gifts of self, and by sharing our time and resources with Church and community efforts all across our region, we can help everyone enjoy a blessed Christmas.

Christmas restores in each of us a sense of hope and belief in the power of love.  While we rejoice in a special way on the Nativity of our Lord, the Christmas spirit of giving is always in season. Jesus is our model for generosity and our lives should be a reflection of his each and every day. People need us and what we give in faith – the world needs us – because in that gift, we offer the life-giving love and liberating truth of Christ our Savior.

In this season in which heaven and earth sing in exultation, may you, your families and the whole world experience the love, peace and joy of God who has come among us in Jesus Christ. Merry Christmas to all!