Christmas offers us a rare moment when culture and Christianity coincide. The melding of sacred rituals and secular routines in a loving embrace is like the union of Saturn and Jupiter forming the Christmas Star. In the darkest hours of the northern hemisphere, we look to the brightest of all spiritual lights; even brighter than the sun of our galaxy is the Son of God. The Hebrew prophet, Isaiah, foretold that the people who walk in darkness shall see a great light and he gave us an image of peace in which the lion would lie down with the lamb and a child would lead us. This sanctified embrace stretches to include the whole world as we pause and rejoice at the birth of the Babe of Bethlehem.
Journalist Harry Reasoner once said, “If a Christian is touched only once a year, the touching is still worth it. And maybe, on some quiet Christmas morning, the touch may take hold—because the one message of Christmas is the Nativity Story. If it is false, we are doomed. If it is true, it makes everything else in the world alright.”
Our Christmas prayer will be different this year, but it does not need to be diminished. Staying home to protect ourselves, our families, and our neighbors, we can tune in to Masses from Saint Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican to the Shepherd’s Mass in the Hills of Judea. Though not with the pope or patriarch, you can also join us here in the Heart of America as we unite our humble prayer for the children of earth with all whom Jesus came to redeem. You can access our Saint Charles Borromeo Eucharistic virtual ceremony on Christmas Eve or Day by clicking here or going to our website. We’ll be joined by sportscast hall-of-famer, Frank Boal (WDAF & KSHB-TV), Fox-4 Emmy award winning journalist, Kathy Quinn, Elder’s lead singer and carpenter extraordinaire, Ian Byrne, Santa Claus, and wonderful music led by Mary Ann Caffrey and Sarah McEnerney. But most importantly, Christ will be with us.
I know that it is a crazy time of uncertainty with the Covid-19 pandemic still biting at our heels. We all have horrible stories of how it has impacted us or tales of narrow escapes from its clutches. It is a mystery beyond the comprehension of the greatest scientific and medical minds of our time. We want to be safe, careful, cautious, and concerned for others, especially during this holiday season when vaccines are being administered and the hope of healing is on the horizon for world citizens. Until we have defeated the coronavirus, we ponder an even greater mystery of how Jesus defeats the virus of sin by becoming one of us. Though it is gut-wrenching and heart-breaking for families that cannot be with their dying spouse, parent, or child in health institutes during this whacky time and it is embarrassing to know that church officials are concerned about bureaucratic standards of what time Mass can start instead of having shepherd’s hearts to pastor flocks through the crisis, we muddle through the chaos to arrive at our own Bethlehem.
“Bethlehem” means the House of Bread and we, Catholics, are enlivened by the Bread of Life, born in a cave and laid in a food trough to symbolize nourishment for the world. It is only right to begin the Feast of Christ’s Nativity nourished in this sacred prayer, uniting the hallowed stable and Eucharistic table. We have expanded the number of Christmas Masses but must limit the quantity that attends each. With this limitation, we want the virtual prayer experience to be as meaningful and nourishing as possible for all kids, from one to ninety-two.
It is a good year to stay in, curl up in pajamas, and welcome the Mass of the Nativity into our homes, much as we welcome Christ, Himself, into our dreams for a better world. Like the old days, we will hunker down, gather at the hearth, play board games into the wee hours of nights, enjoy gifts and the gift of one another. With the sounds of music and laughter, the glorious mess of wrapping paper, boxes and bows strewn through the house, I hope your celebration reflects the great feast that it is. And as the darkest days of the year now begin to give way to brighter times, let us be reminded that we can overcome every darkness as reflectors of His holy light.