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God With Us

During this season as we approach the Nativity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and prepare ourselves for His coming to the world as the small child of Bethlehem, I hope that we all might be able to take some time to ponder the ongoing effects of this historical event, within our individual lives and within our world.

It is certainly well known that at the time of the birth of our Lord, the Jewish people were waiting for the coming of the Messiah.  Although the people of Israel were a people of the exodus and a people of freedom, they did not experience or live that freedom at the time.  They were under the yoke of oppression from the Roman occupiers, as an invading army, but some religious leaders also knew that in some ways the message of the exodus and freedom had not been completed even as they entered the Promised Land.  The people had not been liberated from the tyranny of temptation, sin and death even from the time of their being freed from slavery in Egypt.

Because of this realization many waited in hope for the Lord to once again stretch His hand into the affairs of the world to save and rescue His people.  They were waiting for the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah: “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign.  Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14)

This event would be the sign that the Lord was once again reaching into the world to save us, but this time something would be different as well.  “Immanuel” means “God with us” and so they awaited the time when God would break into the world and be with His people.  But the unfortunate thing that occurred then, and still occurs to this day, is that people think that they understand better exactly how the Lord should and will go about His work.  At that time the people were hoping for a Messiah who would operate exactly as they thought he should, as they thought was best.  They wanted a strong military leader, one who would lead a revolt, conquer the Roman armies and once again establish the nation.  But of course we know that this is not how God works.  He never did.

God was not just interested in establishing another nation, but rather in bringing true freedom and love to all people.  So He set into motion, not the raising of a military leader, but for the birth of a child.  The Gospel of Matthew describes it for us in its beginning: “Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way.  When His mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.  Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly.  But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.  She will bear a son, and you are to name Him Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.’ All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: ‘Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,’ which means, ‘God is with us.’” (Matthew 1:18-23)  It was in the birth of Jesus that God would enter into our world.

In the Nativity of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, we truly have “God with us.” So we see here what God is doing, but it also asked the question, what about “us”?  In the pages of Scripture we see the reactions of many to this joyous birth.  In Luke’s Gospel the angels and all of heaven announce the birth, “Do not be afraid; for see – I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11)  We see here also the shepherds who responded to the angel’s call and went to see the newborn King. “The shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.’ So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph and the child lying in the manger.  When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child.” (Luke 2:15-17)

But we also know that not everyone welcomed this message of the newborn King.  Not everyone liked that God had once again intervened in a way they did not consider welcome.  “When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men.” (Matthew 2:16)

Things still remain the same today.  The message of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ can be a challenge to those who think they know better, but we must remember that we are not called to be advisors of our Lord in His work in the world, but rather followers and disciples.  We must take a lesson from the Shepherds and the Magi who came to worship the newborn King. 

The Magi had traveled far in their search for Jesus, following the revelation of God in the star.  “When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy.  On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary His mother; and they knelt down and paid Him homage.  Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered Him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.” (Matthew 2:10-11)

The shepherds also heard the call from the heavens, the revelation from God, and answered in traveling to the manager to worship and adore our Lord.  But it’s also true that Scripture tells us they went even one step farther. “They made known what had been told them about this Child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them….The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.” (Luke 2:17b-18,20)

So my brothers and sisters at the end of the year 2019 we are faced with the same issues and concerns of the time of our Savior’s birth.  How will you approach the manger of our Lord and His once again coming into our world and into your life?  Will you be challenged by His example to live a life of devotion and love which does not count the costs?  Will you, like the Magi, follow difficult ways such as rejection from the wider culture and sometimes even our friends to approach and honor Jesus, our Lord?  Will you offer your gifts of your time, talent and treasure to Christ the newborn King?  Will you, like the shepherds, spend your life glorifying and praising God in all you think, say and do?  Will you “make known what you have been told concerning Christ”?  Will you share the good news with others you encounter?

These are the questions that we must face at the Christmas season and into the New Year.  My resolution, and I hope it will be yours too, is that in this second year of our focus on “Discipleship” that I will more closely live my life like the Magi and the shepherds, giving all to Jesus and sharing the good news of His salvation.

To my brother bishops, to the priests and deacons of the Church, to my brothers and sisters within the Polish National Catholic Church and the clergy and members of the Union of Scranton, I send my blessings and best wishes for a joyous Nativity and a new year filled with love and devotion to our Lord.

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Phone: (570) 346-9131
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