Each year at Christmas, people will often share a letter that looks back over the year to
share with loved ones some of the high moments of the past year, such as vacations,
events in the lives of kids at school or with sports, or perhaps a new job or a graduation.
They are a way for a person to connect with extended family and friends they might not
see as much as they’d like to.
The thing of it is, while these letters are great, they also are, understandably, not too
personal. For instance, a person probably would not write in a Christmas letter “I’ve
been battling feelings of loneliness, I went to confession a few times but am still
struggling with a sin I worked on last Lent, I’m worried about the future, and haven’t
been to Mass in a while.” But while that would be a little awkward to send to extended
family, I’d suggest it is exactly the kind of letter that God would like to get from all of us.
And that’s because God knows us inside out.
As I’ve mentioned before borrowing the phrase from another priest, we are indeed the
reason for the season. God chooses to become one of us because He wants to show
us how much we are loved. And over the course of His life and ministry, Jesus will do
that culminating with His Resurrection and triumph over death. We’ll hear the words “the
people who have walked in darkness have seen a great light” on Christmas. And my
hope is that you open your eyes to see the light of God’s love in your life.
It starts by realizing God loves you, all of you. He loves the person who comes to Mass,
but He also loves the person who may have an ongoing struggle or is a little rough
around the edges. So invite Him into your life. Make Mass a regular part of your life if it
isn’t. Pray each day. Pick up a Bible or do some spiritual reading. Come to confession a
few times a year. Do an honest look at your life not just at Lent but every day, asking
yourself what you might like to change and ask for His continual help, knowing you can’t
do it alone. We do not know the exact date of Christ’s birth, but the feast falls right at the
winter solstice as the days get ever so slightly longer from here on out. Little by little too
the light of Christ needs to increase over the course of our lives as we develop an
ongoing relationship with this God who is love.
Finally, let others in. I was reminded of the importance of this not too long ago. I tend to
be a bit reserved; I like to make folks laugh or tell a joke or a story, but I also am a bit
uncomfortable showing grief. In August and September, my large dog, a Golden
Pyrenees named Kirby, got ill and dealt with a rapidly growing cancer that took his life. It
was (and still is) quite difficult, as he’d been with me every day for the past 7 years, and
was my first dog. When he crossed over, I wasn’t planning on talking about it much at
the office. Part of me felt like I had to move on quickly. But seeing I was hurting, the
staff were there with their support. My family were too of course. And every single one
of the kids in our school signed cards which were given to me by each grade. This was
so helpful, and reminded me that I was loved and I did not have to hide pain. The point
is that our simple actions of love can truly do so much to help one another. So on the
one hand, as I learned, don’t feel as if you have to bottle up emotion or pain. Find people you can count on and talk to them about what is weighing on your heart. But
also look for ways to bring the light of God’s love to those in need. The gift of listening,
of compassion and being there for others in moments of need truly does so much, and
is a gift far more valuable than anything in a box. Never forget what an impact you have
on the lives of others.
As we celebrate Christmas this week, I hope you have a wonderful holiday with loved
ones. But as you come to Mass and see the Christ child in front of the altar, and gaze
on Jesus in the Eucharist, remember always that even if you were the only person in the
world, God still would have come for you because He loves you so much.
Have a very blessed Christmas!