Christmas is almost upon us! During this holy time, I greet you in the name of Jesus Christ, whose birth we will celebrate as together we prepare for a blessed Christmas within our families.
Speaking of families, about 15 years ago I was a pastor of a parish in Bethlehem, Pa. One day after school, I saw four young girls waiting for their rides home. I asked the girls, “Are you excited about Christmas?”
Three of them immediately told me exactly why they were excited — they hoped to receive a special gift. I don’t remember what they said, and probably 15 years later, they don’t remember either. But I’ll guarantee you the fourth girl who responded — she remembers!
She said to me, “I just can’t wait to see the expression on my mother’s face when she opens my gift.”
I know that this young lady remembers that day, and I am sure her mother also remembers. Both remember because her response captured the true spirit of Christmas — the excitement that comes into our lives when the Lord Jesus enters into our hearts and turns us away from ourselves and our personal concerns and toward love of another.
At the Extraordinary Synod in Rome during October, the Synod Fathers and others who were gathered reflected upon the sacrificial love that is displayed in so many families. As we reflected on families, there were three great movements that I believe capture the self-giving love that we celebrate at Christmas.
The first movement is the process of restoring confidence that families can truly witness to the love of Jesus Christ in their lives and to a Gospel of joy. My young friend from 15 years ago surely displayed that unselfish love of Jesus as she saw the expression on her mother’s face.
The second movement is the opportunity for us to accompany others who struggle in this world. Of course, we have this responsibility throughout the year, but Christmas is a special time to think of those who are hurting.
As we do this, we need to go out and meet people where they are. This might mean reaching out to a neighbor or a relative you haven’t heard from in a long time. It may involve helping someone who deeply needs your material and spiritual help to accompany them into the light of Christ.
The third movement of the Synod is to uncover and appreciate once again the beauty of our faith. On Christmas morn, we will celebrate the great beauty that the Son of God became one of us for our salvation.
The birth of Jesus Christ has been celebrated for 2,000 years. It is ever ancient and yet ever new.
May the excitement of that third-grader I talked with 15 years ago be an inspiration as you prepare for Christmas. May you open your heart to the love of Christ that can touch and transform each one of us. May your family be renewed as together this Christmas Day we come close to the Lord Jesus. Have a truly blessed Christmas!
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz