Today, Christmas Day, we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Through the person of Jesus, God took on human form in order to share our sorrows and joys, to heal us, to love us, and ultimately to lead us from sin and death to eternal life and everlasting love. For us, Jesus is the one predicted by the prophet Isaiah: “Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Is 9.6). Over two thousand years ago, the shepherds received the “tidings of great joy” from the angel of God, who told them that Jesus the Christ was born. They hurried off to Bethlehem and discovered the child Jesus cradled in the arms of Mary, under the protection of Joseph. They fell on their knees in adoration and repeated the news of the angel, to the astonishment of all.
Today is a day of sharing the astonishment of the shepherds when we remember the birth of Jesus. We join with the angels to sing the glory of God: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favours!” (Lk 2.14). Our period of waiting during Advent is over, and we now enter into the joy of Christmas. Our Saviour is born! The celebrations over the next few weeks are vital moments of renewing our faith.
On Sunday, Dec. 28, we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family. Jesus grew up under the protective and loving gaze of Mary and Joseph. “The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favour of God was upon him” (Lk 2.40). We are invited to reflect on how we live within our own families: do we live with tenderness, forgiveness and love? We are called to embrace all other humans as our sisters and brothers. Are we ready to reach out our hands in friendship, or do we withhold our love? Jesus invites us to become one human family.
On Jan. 1, World Day of Pace, we celebrate Mary, the Holy Mother of God. When the shepherds told Mary and Joseph what the angels proclaimed – the tidings of good news that the newborn child Jesus was the long-awaited Saviour – Mary “treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart” (Lk 2.19). We are called to imitate Mary by pondering the words and actions of her Son, Jesus. On this World Day of Peace, we recall the greeting of the Risen Christ repeated over and over, “Peace be with you!” (Lk 24.26). We are called by Jesus to be peace-makers in our world.
On Sun., Jan. 4, we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany of the Lord. Three wise men followed a star which led them to the child Jesus in Bethlehem, where they adored him. “On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh” (Mt. 2.11). What gifts from our lives do we offer Jesus? Do we offer the gifts of prayer and service to others, our sisters and brothers in need? The three learned wise men inspire us to deepen our wisdom of seeking and serving the Lord.
On Sun., Jan. 11, we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord. Jesus, now adult, is called by God to leave the loving family community of Nazareth, and to begin his ministry. When he is baptized by John, “just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased’” (Mk 1.10-11). God’s love strengthened Jesus for his ministry, and eventually it was with love that Jesus suffered and died, to be raised to new life by the Father. Today we are called to reflect on our own baptism in Jesus, and to feel his strength in living out the unique mission entrusted to each of us.
Christmas day, then, is the magnificent beginning of a series of celebrations which serve to fortify our faith and our joy in the Lord, Emmanuel, God-among-us. Christmas offers us an opportunity to feel renewed hope, and to be inspired to love Jesus and to follow him in service to our sisters and brothers, especially the poor and the suffering.