“Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear. The angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.’” Luke 8:2-14
Once again, we rejoice in Christ’s coming, when the Son of God took on a human form and was
, born in a manger, so that he might deliver us from sin. At the same time, we await his second coming when his kingdom will have no end.
Like the angels, we sing our praises, “Glory to God in the highest.” Like Mary, we say, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior. … The mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”
We have been preparing for Christmas throughout the weeks of Advent, reminding ourselves that Christ is the center of our lives, our guiding light. When we let Jesus into our hearts and allow the Holy Spirit to grow within us, we have no choice but to share Christ’s love and mercy with the rest of the world.
It is that love and mercy that binds us as the children of God, the body of Christ. And when we share this gift from God, it grows, bringing even more souls into our family of faith.
Here in the Diocese of Nashville, we can see this great gift in action. The Church in Middle Tennessee is thriving. New parishes and a regional school are being established. More people are being welcomed into the community of faith. And as we grow, our ministries are extending further into the community, touching more people with Christ’s love, welcoming all.
“Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary,” is a quote often attributed to St. Francis of Assisi. No matter its author, it is a great lesson and reminder for every Christian that we are called to love our neighbor as ourselves. As St. Paul wrote in Corinthians, “If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.”
We cannot hoard Christ’s mercy. He came to save all of humanity, and just as he sent out his disciples to spread that good news, he is sending us as well.
During the Christmas season, that lesson is easy to hear. This holy day orients our hearts toward charity. But the challenge is to continue to preach the gospel through our lives, every day of our lives.
Following Christ has always been difficult. It remains so in our modern age. But Christ remains with us to give us strength, to pick us up when we stumble, to keep inviting us to reconcile ourselves to God. When we struggle, we find hope in Christ. And in hope in Christ, we find peace.
Pope Francis, in a recent television program, urged people to celebrate “a real Christmas” with Jesus. It is OK to celebrate, exchange gifts, eat and be merry, he said, “but do not forget Jesus. Christmas is Jesus who comes, who comes to touch our hearts.”
May we all have a merry and holy Christmas with Jesus.