Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, Merry Christmas!
This is indeed a Christmas Season that challenges us in so many different ways. There are no previous references to guide us, or proven solutions to lead us on how to “celebrate” Christmas in the shadows of a pandemic. And yet, if we look at the beginning of the life of the Holy Family, we can, at least, find inspiration and insight. We read in the Gospel of Matthew:
“When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit.” (Mt:1,18)
This was the beginning of a series of “new and challenging” situations in their lives. Joseph taking responsibility for Mary and the child to be born; Mary and Joseph compelled to walk the more -than-90-mile journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Shortly after the birth of Jesus, they became political refugees when
“Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt.” (Mt. 2,14)
Later, when Jesus was 12 years old, on the Holy Family’s visit to Jerusalem,
“Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. After three days they found him in the temple.” (Lk. 2,43-46)
And yet, in every situation they were able to remain strong in their values:
“When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him.”
“[Jesus] went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart.”
Jesus shows us the importance of being close to our family, Mary teaches us to take time to think and reflect, Joseph sets the example of adherence to the will of God, even when it is a difficult one.
This year, Christmas is going to be different and, maybe, we could even call it “better.” We are limited in what we can do and who we can visit. Financial reality may put some constraints on the quantity and quality of the traditional gifts we are used to exchanging. The usual compilation of menus and lights, music and songs, ideas and projects that characterized the past Christmases is now reshaped. But, the heart of the festivity does not change! We are celebrating the birth of our Savior, who, when born, Mary “wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger” and with the first of his visitors being the poor shepherds. This Christmas, we are invited to rely less on niceties and return to the center of the celebration: God came among us. Jesus came to free us from our fear, from our egoism and from our divisions. The sentence “be not afraid” is repeated 21 times in the Gospel and it is one of the main messages of the Lord. So, at this Christmas time, “do not be afraid.” From the moment of his birth, the Lord wanted to be with us. He promised us:
“behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Mt. 28,20)
It is Him present in our lives that we are celebrating at this Christmas. Embrace Him! Trust in Him! Let Him into your life!
“They shall name him Emmanuel” which means “God is with us.” (Mt.1,23)
A Merry Christmas to you and your family!
Best regards in Christ,
Father Ezio Marchetto, c.s. Pastor