Christmas greetings to all of you with the hope that we will all be able to experience more deeply this year the gift of Jesus’ presence in our lives and the gifts of our families.
We have been preparing to celebrate the birth of Jesus for several weeks now and we are finally approaching the day. We have been listening to and reading many of the Old Testament prophets to see how Jesus is the fulfillment of the dream that God has in mind for all of us. His life and his presence on the earth has changed our lives and we have a chance to give thanks to God for that incredible gift.
The simplicity of the birth of Jesus reminds us that the dream of God does not promise us that life will be without its challenges. Jesus, Mary and Joseph had a tough time finding a place to live. Their lives were threatened pretty quickly after Jesus was born. They had to run for their lives and become refugees because of the threat of a powerful figure of their time.
Even with all those difficulties, we hear testimony in the first chapter of John’s Gospel that the birth of Jesus allows people — both of His time and ours — to see God’s glory. It seems proper at Christmas to identify and share with others the ways that we see God’s glory in our lives today. There are certainly enough opportunities to become negative and cynical, but we’d be better off shining the light of Jesus in every gathering. God’s glory shines in times of celebration: the birth of a new baby, the times people share with those in need and gatherings of our families and friends with the opportunity to respect and value each other. God’s glory also shines in times of difficulty. Holidays often have sad memories attached to them or there are people who we wish were with us but who are missing. The faithful companionship of friends and loved ones who comfort us in our sorrow also allow God’s light and glory to shine among us.
Instead of making Christmas a one- or two-day event, let us challenge each other to extend the Christmas season by the ways that we live and gather with others. If Jesus is truly present and is the Word made flesh, we have reason to rejoice for more than one or two days. Once the gift giving is finished and the formal gatherings are over, we can use our energies and gifts so that others might come to know the power of love that we have been given through Jesus. Seek out those who are disconnected. Seek out those who are convinced that no one cares. Seek out those who have been ostracized. Seek out those that you would normally spend no time with. Bring the gift of the Word made flesh with you and expect to receive that same gift back from those with whom you seek companionship.
May your blessings be many and your willingness to share those blessings even greater. May you experience healing and peace through the presence of the word made flesh. May you have a special place in your heart and life for all those who seek comfort and understanding. May you have the assurance of the presence of Jesus with you always and may that presence free you from anxiety and fear and set you free to be light in darkness and hope for others.
Father Wester is pastor of All Saints Parish in St. Peters.