Our apologies for the delay in posting Fr. Prior’s Christmas message this year he has been unwell, but recovering thus causing a delayed posting of his annual Christmas message.
The time in which we live is particularly marked by deep suffering, grief, uncertainty and restrictions, even if there are many lights that shine among us, and not only those of the lights but, even more, those of people who, in these moments of exceptional difficulty, know how to offer human closeness, professionalism and solidarity. Having now reached Christmas, however, we are called to welcome the light of the star that shines upon directing our gaze towards the grotto of Bethlehem.
It is not a question of our returning to the past, but of remembering the decisive event of salvation in order to be able to live in the present with even newer hope. We are thus invited to rediscover this feast in an authentic way, going to the essentials, grasping its true meaning, overcoming our ways of conceiving it which all to often have lead us to see something quite different. In fact, if it is true that humanity expresses itself through words, it is equally true that words can shape humanity’s way of thinking.
Therefore, as believers, we need to return to a way of speaking and living about Christmas with words and gestures capable of correctly manifesting exactly what they express. Allow me, therefore, to suggest some food for thought. The nativity scene in every home first of all, I invite everyone to create the Nativity scene in every home. St. Francis of Assisi hands it over to us as a simple sign, an effective reminder of the mystery of the birth of the infant Jesus and an opportunity to rediscover the value of silence, recollection, prayer, especially if lived within the family.
With the nativity it is also necessary to remember that this feast is not the beautiful fairy tale of Christianity, but the reality of the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem. A reality marked by history —In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered— but above all capable of marking history. Indeed, wether you accepted it or rejected it, Christ with his birth and, subsequently, with His evangelism, death and resurrection has challenged every generation since. This Holy Night is equally necessary in aiding us to recall to mind that this very night of Christmas is not some kind of magical night, but that it is The Holy Night, in which the Son of God was born of the Virgin Mary for the salvation of all of humanity: a night that was illuminated by a single bright star, acclaimed by the choir of angels and impassioned by the spirit of inquiry of the shepherds. It is the night of a gift from God that He gives to humanity, within the mystery of the Incarnation of His Son who becomes man, so that humanity, freed from sin, may rediscover their communion with God; indeed, so that we ourselves may be renewed as a child of God.
A renewed interior thrust, we are therefore called to live this in a renewed interior dimension, but not in an intimate nor private way. Faith, precisely because it illuminates humanity in his totality, always has public and manifest implications. Welcoming the light that emanates from the grotto at Bethlehem means allowing oneself to be illuminated in a new and integral manner where “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (cf. John 1:5). That is why it is not only our obligation but also our moral imperative to gather together to celebrate the gift that comes from the Father who is in heaven, as well as to announce it so that it can be known, loved and worshipped by all of mankind. The concreteness of charity, is not some kind of religious romanticism or a fairy-tale. In fact, Christmas reminds us of concreteness with the proclamation of the Gospel and with acts of authentic and active charity. We cannot forget those who await our help for human closeness, material and spiritual harmony, listening … They could be people that are unknown to us or those who share the same roof with us, or work with us.
What matters is that charity is lived in a tangible manner. Then, together with the song of the angels “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace, goodwill among people!” (Luke 2:14), we will also be able to hear the voice of Jesus saying: “just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of these my brothers, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:40).
To all of you, wherever you may be, whatever your situation I wish you a heartfelt Holy Christmas and extend the blessing of our Lord upon you all.