It is wonderful to greet you and wish you blessings during these days of Advent, as we prepare for the great feast of Christmas. I do so in the midst of the turmoil that 2020 has brought to our world and nation as well as to our communities, families and individual souls.
What can we hope for as we prepare for Christmas? On Oct. 4, Pope Francis issued a new encyclical entitled “Fratelli Tutti.” His title recalls the words of Saint Francis of Assisi that we are brothers and sisters to all in our common home. As brothers and sisters, we lift ourselves above differences of nation or race and see the dignity of each person, knowing that nothing can separate us from the love of God. We are drawn together by the Child in the manger — the Son of God who took flesh among us — who calls us to one human family. This is at the heart of our celebration of Christmas.
In this encyclical, Pope Francis includes a beautiful quote about dreams:
“Here we have a splendid secret that shows us how to dream and to turn our life into a wonderful adventure. No one can face life in isolation. … We need a community that supports and helps us, in which we can help one another to keep looking ahead. How wonderful it is to dream together. … By ourselves, we risk seeing mirages, things that are not there. Dreams, on the other hand, are built together.”
What a difference between mirages and dreams! Think about a person in the desert thirsting for water. He imagines and longs for water and finds only a figment of his imagination as he draws near. How frustrating!
Dreams, however, are built on promises of visions and a hope grounded in truth. The first Christmas was filled with such dreams. Joseph’s dream led him to take Mary as his spouse. The dreams of the three magi led them to seek out the Christ child and then led them home by a safe route. There were the daydreams of our Blessed mother. After the angel Gabriel appeared to her, we read that she treasured all these things in her heart.
Such dreams even go back to the prophets of the Old Testament. Chapter 52, verses 7 and 8 of Isaiah says, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings glad tidings, announcing peace, bearing good news, announcing salvation, and saying to Zion, ‘your God is king.’ Hark, your sentinels raise their cry, they shout for joy.”
We are the sentinels of Christmas shouting for joy at the good news that our savior was born 2000 years ago. We celebrate this historical fact. We know that through his passion, death and resurrection, Jesus remains alive, and he is with us until He comes again in glory.
Despite the physical distancing required to keep one another safe from the COVID-19 pandemic, we must never forget that we are social beings. As a Church, we are one body in Christ reaching out to all. The grace of Christmas this year is to allow our hearts to be opened once again to Jesus, the Son of God, born in the humble circumstances of a manger. He comes to show us how to live and to give us the power and grace to follow Him.
The most important gifts at Christmas are the gifts we take for granted. Rekindle in your hearts:
- The gift of faith and family.
- The gift to serve and reach out to others.
- The gift to reject destructive mirages that rob us of hope.
- The gift of our dignity as we embrace the person of Jesus Christ who is our savior.
We are sentinels who announce the good news of our salvation — a salvation that impels us to reach out to others. Let this Christmas be an opportunity to share what you have received. Answer Pope Francis’ invitation to share your dreams and visions — dreams and visions based upon the hope and joy of your faith. In this spirit, I wish all of you a blessed Christmas!