My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
It’s hard not to enjoy the Christmas season. The sounds of Christmas carols fill the air with some of the most beautiful music ever composed. The colorful lights and other decorations in our towns and homes brighten our spirits. We gather with family and friends to enjoy good food and company.
Even non-Christians find Christmas appealing. In Sri Lanka, many Hindus go to Catholic Masses at Christmas and the national government erected the world’s tallest artificial Christmas tree in the capital of the majority Hindu nation. Business men and women of any and no faith are happy to hear the sweet sounds of their cash registers ringing to record Christmas sales to eager customers.
The story of a child born in humble circumstances to the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph while angels sang of his birth to shepherds in the hills is entrancing. The birth of any child should delight us but what sets Jesus’ birth apart from all the rest is who he is. The astounding truth that Christmas proclaims is that God, who gives origin to, sustains and is the ultimate goal of all creation, has entered his creation as a creature. In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. . . . All things came to be through him and without him nothing came to be. . . The Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth [John 1:1,3,14]. Jesus, born of Mary, is truly human but also truly God, the eternal Son of the eternal Father. No wonder the angels sang!
Only an extraordinary love can explain such an extraordinary act. For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life [John 3:16]. We human beings had made such a mess of things that God Himself had to come to our rescue. He could have chosen to do it from outside but he chose rather to do it from within. Although he was God, he showed us in a human way what true love is, even as we treated him as badly as we often treat one another. In the end, no one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends [John 15:13]. He had to die on a cross to prove his love. He then rose from the dead so that his sacrifice might bear lasting fruit in us.
It was from our sins and our death that the Son of God came to rescue us. No one else ever born could do that, only Mary’s child. This is the reason for the Incarnation, the coming of God’s Son into human flesh: to free us from the evils from which we cannot possibly free ourselves. In him we find now the forgiveness of our sins and, afterwards, the fullness of eternal life, for which God has always destined us. All of this is implicit in the birth of the child in Bethlehem.
Enjoy Christmas! Sing the songs, not just “Frosty, the Snowman” and “Jingle Bells” but those precious carols like “Silent Night,” “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” and “The First Noel.” Breathe in the bracing air of God’s love for you, a love so amazing that He would live your life and taste both its joys and its sorrows, all to save you. Offer your Christmas Mass for your loved ones, for this dear Church of Wheeling-Charleston and for Pope Francis. Trust God to help you, your family, our Diocese and the world. Let us rejoice in this festival of God’s love for us all. With the angels we, too, may sing: Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests [Luke 2:14].
Sincerely in Christ,
Most Reverend Mark E. Brennan
Bishop of Wheeling-Charleston
Joyce Bibey Photo
Bishop Mark E. Brennan is pictured with students from Our Lady of Peace School in Wheeling who performed Christmas carols at the chancery Dec. 18. Also pictured are Music Teacher Michelle Kline, left, and Principal Maureen Kerr and Father Joseph Augustine, H.G.N., J.C.L., pastor.