In many of our churches, usually at the beginning of the evening Mass, the hymn “O Holy Night” is sung. It is a traditional hymn and carries with it, not only the story of the birth of Jesus, but also much sentiment and emotion because of its musical setting. In some places it sets the stage for the celebration of one of the most important Masses we celebrate, the Birth of Jesus into our world.
Music and hymns, Christmas carols, and gifts, treats and special events all mark the season of Christmas for us. We are also aware that our secular society does not do much to support us in proclaiming the true meaning of this time. It talks more of holidays, gift giving, spending and parties, than it does of the birth of Christ. However, even in the midst of this secular world, we profess our faith and often hear religious hymns and people boldly expressing the true meaning of Christmas in the public sphere.
As we celebrate the birthday of our Saviour, we are called to reflect in our everyday lives, the message and teachings that Jesus gave us while he lived on earth. We are called to be merciful, compassionate, generous, caring and loving in all that we say and do. This is not an easy task in the midst of the darkness that still surrounds us in the world, but it is a task that is connected to our commitment to the Lord.
The many colourful lights that decorate our houses and trees, are a reminder to us, that a special Light has come into our world, the Light of Christ, the Light of God. We are called to be ‘light’ for one another, to be the light of the Lord. That great light that guides us to truth and to the Father. The people of Isaiah’s time longed for this light. We now enjoy it through the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. So as you share the beauty and colour that surrounds us in our homes and neighbourhoods, may it remind us of the light given to us at our baptism that still guides us today.
Christmas is a time for family gatherings and family sharing. This year we should ask ourselves how we can be the ‘light of Christ’ for each other. How, through our works of generosity, through our actions of kindness and compassion, we can bring the light of Jesus to our brothers and sisters. In particular let us be sure that we bring this light into our own families, through reconciliation and forgiveness wherever it is needed.
O Holy Night, it truly was, and still is for us. As you celebrate this most holy time of our church year, and as you open your heart to Jesus who brings us joy and redemption, let us give thanks and praise to God and let us reflect that thanks to one another. A Holy and Merry Christmas to all.
Bishop Fred J. Colli