CHRISTMAS 2005

Today, the Ancient Promise is fulfilled; the time of waiting has ended and the Virgin gives birth to the Messiah.

Today, Jesus is born for a humanity searching for freedom and peace.

He is born for everyone burdened by sin, in need of salvation, and yearning for hope.

That Holy Night, when in the Silence of obscurity and poverty, Christ was born has ushered in a New Day, filled with the light of an undying hope, that dispels the darkness imposed on human hearts by fear and despair.

Over the centuries, people have cried out: Come, Lord, save us! God has heard and he answers with one Word, his Eternal Word. This Word spoken at the beginning of time brought about the creation of all things, visible and invisible. Now, this Word, this last Word, spoken in time, has taken on our mortal flesh so that in Him, and with Him and through Him all glory and honor may be given once again to his Eternal Father. Yes, the Word of God’s love for his creation has entered into the creature’s time and place. Emmanuel, God-with-us, is born.

Today, our attention is drawn to the crèche. In thousands of churches – from great basilicas to humble rural chapels, a crèche enhances the usual liturgical décor. Today, we are invited to contemplate this “icon” of Christmas. We see the animals, the poor shepherds, we see the mother who has just given birth. We see the awe struck yet protective Joseph. And we see the baby, placed in a feed box – a manger.

Who could imagine that this little baby is the Son of the Most High? Only, she – his Mother does. She knows the truth and guards the Mystery. Today, we can also join in her gaze, and look on this child through her eyes – through those eyes of simple and unwavering faith – and so recognize in this child the human face of God.

Gazing on the Christ Child, through the eyes of Mary, the first disciple, makes Christmas a real school of faith and life, a training ground for us, in turn, to assume the risks and the joys of discipleship, to become like Mary, blessed amongst women because she heard the Word and obeyed it. In this school of faith and life which is Christmas, we too learn the truth and become guardians of the Mystery.

In Luke’s gospel, the angel tells the shepherds: “You will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger. They say that a picture speaks a thousand words. And earlier I had referred to the crèche as the icon of Christmas: for icons in Church art are drawn in such a way to speak the Word of God through the signs and symbols represented in the icon. As Pope John Paul II said a few years ago at a Midnight Mass has he gazed on the Christ child with his penetrating eyes of faith that mirrored so well for us the eyes of Mary, the eyes of a true disciple:

“The Child laid in a lowly manger: this is God’s sign. The centuries and the millennia pass, but the sign remains, and it remains valid for us too – the men and women of the third millennium. It is a sign of hope for the whole human family; a sign of peace for those suffering from conflicts of every kind; a sign of freedom for the poor and oppressed; a sign of mercy for those caught up in the vicious circle of sin; a sign of love and consolation for those who feel lonely and abandoned.
A small and fragile sign, a humble and quiet sign, but one filled with the power of God who out of love became man.”

God has kept his promise. God has spoken. He has given us his Word. His Word is our peace. His word is our hope. His word is mercy. His Word is Jesus.