As human beings, we yearn for peace, joy, happiness, and wholeness in our lives and relationships, but often end up experiencing fear, anxiety, loneliness, and even bewilderment when our world seems to crumble around us. We live in a world where many hearts are closed, pain abounds, and death can seem more prevalent than life.
In that regard, we are not so different from the people in the days surrounding that first Christmas. Not so different from Mary and Joseph, responding faithfully to God, and at the same time finding themselves barely one step ahead of evil Herod who would kill the Holy Child. Not so different from the shepherds, struggling to make a meager living watching over the flocks of others, while living a very isolated life. Not so different from Elizabeth and Zechariah, or Simeon and Anna, waiting their whole lives for peace and salvation. Not so different from the Magi seeking the Ruler who would bring in the perfect kingdom. And not so different from others around us who yearn for and expect something better in life.
Yes, we are a people of yearning and expectation. However, the message of Christmas is that all our hopes and expectations have now been fulfilled, since we have a God who loves us so much as to become one of us in the realities of human life, including suffering and death. Through the coming of Emmanuel – which means, God with us – we receive the greatest Gift of all, a Savior.
On that first Christmas, the shepherds went with haste to receive this wonder. Then they made known what the angels told them so that others could hear it. In a sense, they prepared the way of the Lord in peoples’ lives even before John the Baptizer did. And, when people heard John, since they were expecting the Messiah, they even asked if he was the Christ. Let us join those first witnesses, so that when people experience us, they may see Jesus in us, as well.
With the angels, let us give glory to God for the gift of a Savior. With Mary, may we proclaim that the Mighty One has done great things. With the shepherds, let us be witnesses through our words and deeds that Jesus is the One for whom we’ve been yearning – the One who brings peace, light, and wholeness into our conflicted, dark, and broken lives. With Elizabeth and Zechariah, Simeon and Anna, and John, let us proclaim joy to a world that is fearful and needs the comfort of salvation. Instead of the valleys and disappointments of life, may others experience, through Christ in us, the love, peace, and justice which is ushered in with the birth of Jesus.
In the words of Isaiah, “Say to daughter Zion, ‘See, your salvation comes’ . . . ”(62:11b). “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns’”(52:7).
Blessings for a Joyous Christmas Season and a Happy and Healthy New Year!
+Bishop Wilma S. Kucharek