‘Tis the season. In December even the advertisements point insistently toward the day the Messiah comes — the day of the Christ’s Mass: Christmas.
It is always a much-heralded birth. It was foretold by prophets, announced by angels, celebrated by shepherds and wise men. Christ came into the world in a stable. He lay in a manger. But he came as King.
Advent prepares us for a day of strange beauty. It comes at a dark time in our calendar, when the days are shortest and coldest. Yet it is then, when the land is most barren, that God reveals his majesty in humility.
The culture’s “insiders” didn’t receive the message of the herald angels. The chief priests were busy with earthly matters in places far from Bethlehem. King Herod and his court were otherwise occupied with their intrigues and indulgence.
The insiders missed the event. But the outsiders came from afar to pay homage.
Poor shepherds, working late at night, heard the word and ran from their pastures.
Magi — gentiles, foreigners, who were considered unclean by the Jews — arrived from distant lands.
Even animals received the singular privilege of attending the divine birth.
“And the master said …, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges, and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled’” (Luke 14:23).
Christmas always comes at a time that is dark and cold — meteorologically, culturally, politically. Yet to those who are listening it arrives as Good News, beyond their fondest imaginings.
You and I have spent another year in hope, another year of expectation, and Our Lord will not disappoint us. We journey toward Christmas ready to pay our tribute of gold and frankincense, but also ready to receive whatever boon the King wishes to bestow on us, and we know that he is a good King and generous.
We must learn from him to be good and generous. We must learn to be ambitious — with holy ambitions — and to share the gifts we have received. Christmas is all about gift giving.
We lavish gifts on one another, freely spending what we have earned and what we have received. It’s love that makes us do it.
But the greatest gifts we give will not be the ones we wrap and put under the tree. The greatest gifts will be the faith we share with others in this dark time, in this cold season, when the culture and its leaders are occupied with matters so far from Christ.
It is a Year of Faith. It is a time of New Evangelization. Faith is a grace we have received, and it is a grace we must share freely. Can we doubt that our lands desperately need its warmth and its light?
I thank you for all you have done for us in our work at the St. Paul Center. Please keep us in mind as you plan your special end-of-year and holiday giving. Never have I felt the burden of our common mission as I do now. Our world needs what God has called us to give. We need to respond like the Magi, with heroism, generosity, courage, and profound charity.