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Christ Has Come

At the end of the preparation and joyful expectation that is the Advent season we know that our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, has come to His people.  We hear the words of Saint Luke’s Gospel as we gather for the first Mass of the Christmas season.

“In those days Caesar Augustus published a decree ordering a census of the whole world.  This first census took place while Quirinius was governor of  Syria.  Everyone went to register, each to his own town.  And so Joseph went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to David’s town of Bethlehem – because he was of the house and lineage of David – to register with Mary, his espoused wife, who was with Child.”

“While they were there the days of her confinement were completed.  She gave birth to her first-born Son and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the place where travelers lodged.”

“There were shepherds in the locality, living in the fields and keeping night watch by turns over their flock.  The angel of the Lord appeared to them, as the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were very much afraid.  The angel said to them: ‘You have nothing to fear!  I come to proclaim good news to you – tidings of great joy to be shared by the whole people.  This day in David’s city a Savior has been born to you, the Messiah and Lord.  Let this be a sign to you: in a manger you will find an Infant wrapped in swaddling clothes.’  Suddenly, there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in high heaven, peace on earth to those on whom His favor rests.’” (Luke 2:1-14)

This reading begins with a lot of grandeur and even an expression of the political realities of the day.  Caesar Augustus, the ruler of the Roman Empire, is mentioned as well as the local governor of Syria, Quirinius.  The reason for the travel of the Holy
Family is to register for a census, which was a part of the Roman taxation system, and therefore not very popular among the average people.  Among the Jewish people, actions like a census were the cause of riots and even much bloodshed.  They knew that this census was only used as a measure of control by the occupying Roman armies.  A census was needed by the Romans so that they knew the maximum amount of money that they could get out of a local area in taxes, and also where they should deploy their troops to control the populace.  Neither of these things was very popular with the average Jewish person or even the Jewish leaders.

But in and through all of it, Luke’s Gospel states that Jesus, the Messiah and Lord, the Savior, was born.  He came to us in a humble way.  He was laid in a manger, because there was no room for the Holy Family in any place where travelers lodged, or even in the home of a kind stranger.  The Lord did not sleep His first night on a royal bed, but was rather laid in the hay where the animals ate.  His parents, Joseph and Mary, were not surrounded by supportive family and friends, but were rather left as strangers, with no one to help.  But still, through it all, the
Savior of the World was born: Jesus Christ, came to us.

I think that it is important that we reflect on this as we experience life today.  I am sure that each of us probably has a rather hectic life.  And they are made even more harried because of the expectation of the season.  We also live within the reality of a very polarized political climate.  It would seem that almost every day there is some sort of political battle that is taking place within our country, and with the 24-hour news cycle that we are subjected to, we can be bombarded with it almost every moment of every day.  I have also noticed that just like the political actions of the Roman empire then, right now the political actions found within our communities sometimes lead to the unfortunate responses of anger or even violence.

But again just as it was over 2000 years ago, Jesus breaks through all of this and comes to us.  He is once again born into our world.  In the Gospel of St. Luke, the shepherds are told to go to the manger and see for themselves.  While this message comes to them, a host from heavens proclaims, “Glory to God…Peace on earth.”  This message is also still true for today as well.

The invitation to come and see for ourselves is still given.  Each of us is encouraged, is called, to come to Church to witness the saving action of God within our lives and within our world.  We are called to encounter the living Christ, Who is within our churches, within our lives this Christmas.  We are also called to hear the words of the multitude of angels “Glory to God…Peace on earth.”  And just as it was for the faithful of long ago, these words are not only a proclamation about the birth of Jesus the Savior, the  Messiah and Lord, they are also a call to have us strive to make them a reality around us.  If there is to be glory to God, it is up to us to give it.  If there is to be peace on earth then we must make it a reality, and we do this through our committing to follow Jesus ever more strongly and making Him the true Lord and Savior of each of our lives.

One of the passages of Scripture that has always struck me strongly is one which occurs immediately after the passage given above for the Mass of the Shepherds.  It is spoken concerning the Humble Shepherds after they have gone to the Manger to be in the presence of the Child Jesus.  Again Saint Luke tells us concerning the shepherds, “Once they saw, they understood what had been told them concerning this child.” (Luke 2:17)  This understanding comes to the shepherds not through the message of the angel, but rather in and through the encounter with the Christ Child.  We too are called today to encounter Jesus.  We are to hear His words to us in the Holy Scripture and then explained to us through homilies.  We are called to encounter Him in the working together of the Body of Christ that is our parish community and we are especially called to receive Him in the reception of Holy Communion.  In and through these encounters with Jesus, we then are better able to understand and know His desire for our lives and for our world.

And finally the Gospel of Luke tells us in this passage, “The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, in accord with what had been told them.” (Luke 2:20)  Here we see that we cannot just allow the message of Christ, the words of Christ, the encounter with Christ to remain as something only within our parish churches.  It is rather to be carried with us.  Just like the shepherds who returned to their work in the field and to the shepherding of their flocks, we too must go about all of the regular aspects of our daily lives in a changed manner.  We are changed like the shepherds because we have Jesus anew within our hearts and within our lives.

This is the reality of the Christmas Season.  It is an opportunity to allow Jesus to once again fill our lives and the lives of those dear to us with His presence.  Let us follow the lead of the shepherds, go to the manger, come to the church and encounter the Christ Who loves us and came to earth for us.  Then will we be strengthened to make “Glory to God and peace on earth” a reality.

I wish to my brother bishops, to all of the priests and deacons and to all of the faithful of our Holy Church my prayers for a joyous Christmas, filled with much love and peace.  Let us again witness the good news that Jesus Christ is with His people, and that He loves each and every one.

 

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Phone: (570) 346-9131
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