The first two liturgical seasons of our new year of grace and favor from the Lord, Advent and Christmas, form one continuous reminder for each of us of the intrinsic beauty of our human lives and those of every other person, but also that our permanent home is not here, it is heaven. It is God’s will that we be united with Him in heaven.
Throughout the four weeks of the Advent Season we are reminded by the inspired Word of God and the Church’s prayers of what God has already done for us in Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior; but we are reminded as well that Jesus has not yet returned as the Judge of all the living and dead of all times and places to hand over all things to the Father at the time of the Final Judgment. In Advent and Christmas,we meet the good and holy persons who show how not only to wait on the Lord but show us how to follow Him in our daily lives. Mary, Mother of God, Joseph her spouse and the foster father of Jesus and guardian of the Holy Family, Zechariah and Elizabeth, St. John the Baptist, the humble shepherds and the three Magi, Simeon and Anna all show us what joy we can have and do have when we place our faith and hope in God. What a gift He is to us!
The celebration of the Birth of Our Lord in human history each Christmas Day should stir our hearts to praise and thank God for His gift of life. Of all the ways God could have chosen to redeem us from our sins, He chose to do so as “one like us in all things but sin.”
He took on our human nature while retaining His divine person and divine nature and came to us as that helpless and beautiful baby. When we take the time to ponder this great mystery of the Incarnation of God as man, do we realize the inestimable worth and value each of us possesses from the first moment of our conception and which we do not lose and is not diminished throughout the course of our lives, all because of Jesus?
As I said, Advent and Christmas form a continuous reminder for each of us of who we are, why we are here, and to Whom each of us is destined to return when we experience death. This should give us great courage and hope for our daily lives. If we keep this in mind then the events of daily life are not obstacles to be overcome or pitfalls to be avoided, but they become graced opportunities and moments for us to increase our love for God, to strengthen our resolve to be more faithful to Him in our prayers, good works and sacrifices, and to share our faith with others, especially by giving a good example.
In the midst of all of the nice customs of Advent and Christmas, let us not forget the reason for these two seasons. Jesus, Who came to us as a beautiful, innocent baby, came to us for one reason only – to reveal how much we are loved personally and eternally by God. At this holy time of our year, I ask you to make a visit to Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament and simply say thank you for the two greatest gifts you will ever receive: your life here and now, and the gift of the eternal life of heaven which is yours if you want it.
May each of you know this Christmas the beautiful peace which only the Infant Jesus can give you. May you and yours have a most Blessed Christmas and New Year! I shall remember all of you at the altar of the Lord on Christmas. May God bless you and please pray for our priests, deacons and seminarians.