December 22, 2020
“Fear not, for behold; I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Lk 2: 10-11)
Dear brothers and sisters,
May the peace of the Lord be with you!
I am sure that we would have liked to celebrate this Christmas in a very different way. We would have preferred that Bethlehem might resound as it always has at this time of the year with joy and celebration in its streets, especially for our children.
But it is not to be. Everything is reduced to the essential minimum, and there is nothing of the festive atmosphere that usually characterizes this period: no more pilgrims, who brought their joy to Bethlehem from all over the world for the birth of the Savior, bringing a smile to many families, who have now been out of work for several months; we cannot meet in large numbers in the community for liturgical celebrations; we have been unable to meet with the different groups that organize parties and meetings in this period; in short, we have a low profile Christmas, one to forget.
The pandemic and the fear derived from it have directly or indirectly marked civil and religious life and seem to have paralyzed us. This last year 2020, has been characterized by fear: health, economy, and even politics. Everything seems to have been overturned by this small but powerful virus, which canceled our projects in a short time and has left us disoriented.
Yes, it is a huge challenge to live without fear in our world, a world with its dynamics that never cease to feed so much anxiety. The eyes of the body see all the reasons for fear.
However, the eyes of the Spirit see the signs that God provides to man: the signs of His presence, His hidden strength, His kingdom, that arise within us when we give Him room. And what are the signs that reassure us that the Lord is about to begin His Kingdom? We will not have tremendous and striking proofs. We will not have great signs. Nothing will appear that upsets the world to prove the event. The Kingdom of Christ the Lord has nothing to do with the power of Caesar Augustus or with powerful and visible manifestations of force. That is not how the Kingdom comes. A baby in a manger is the sign of the beginning of the new Kingdom.
But it is a sign that we can easily let slip; we can pass by without even realizing it because we are so wrapped up in our anxieties and fears. We close our minds so willingly in our human perspectives that we do not recognize God’s presence; we do not make room for faith in Him: “there was no room in the hotel” (Lk 2:7). Fear prevents us from opening up, and so we become sterile instead of responding to our call to become bearers of God.
The shepherds of the Gospel accepted the angel’s invitation and set out to see and recognize Christ the Lord in that sign, in the child placed in a manger.
Jesus came to overturn our thoughts, to surprise our expectations, to shake our existence, to awaken us from the illusion that everything is known, everything is under control, that discouragement is the only logical answer to the sad reality of our world.
Let the Holy Spirit guide us to recognize once again, in the face of adversity, the sign of His presence in our reality. We must decide whether to limit ourselves by looking at our existence in today’s world, with its logic of power and fear, or be able to peer with the eyes of the Spirit to recognize the presence of the Kingdom in our midst. We must decide whether to leave room for the frustration and hardships of the world or make ourselves capable, despite everything, of joy and love. What do our eyes see today? Which presence? Are we like shepherds capable of going beyond appearances and recognizing God’s work in the world?
Our call is to become a sign in turn. What our eyes see is what our life announces concretely. If we see with the eyes of the Spirit, we will also have a life rich in Spirit and therefore fruitful.
If we decide to celebrate Christmas this year, too, it is because we believe that Christ was born and is present. Now it is for us to become a sign of great joy, the joy of Emmanuel – God with us – and become witnesses of this joy “in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1: 8).
Source: Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem