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Father Muench Says...

The images of the season

December 22, 2021

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

“God’s gift to us is the love of his Son; Our gift to God is our love for each other. It means so much to share God’s love with you at this Christmas time and all year long.”

Today I would like to begin by sending to you a prayer for you and your families. My prayer is that your Christmas is filled with joy and peace and love. I hope that you have a happy Christmas. May your Christmas be filled in every way by the Lord Jesus, the Jesus who became one of us, who lived with us, who died for us, who rose again to new life, the Jesus who became one of us as an infant to transform our world with love.

Christmas is a time filled with so many images – wonderful ways to help us understand the miracle of the birth of our Savior. An image that comes to my mind immediately is that of a trip. Joseph and Mary traveled to Bethlehem for the census. They stayed in a stable, for there was no room at the Inn. The shepherds were in the fields, and they traveled to Bethlehem to see Jesus as directed by the angels. The magi traveled a great distance to find Jesus, following a star.

I associate Christmas with traveling because most of the years that I have been a priest, Christmas meant a morning Mass in the parish and then a drive of a distance to spend the day with my family. As the years went by, it meant staying some time with my sister’s family and then I traveling further to spend time with my brother’s family. And there were many years that I would then travel back to the parish because there would be something happening the next day. So, I would truly join Mary and Joseph, the shepherds, the magi as travelers on Christmas day.

Another image that is part of the Christmas story is the times of darkness and the times of light.

The shepherds were in darkness until the angels came to them in a bright light. The magi traveled under the guidance of the light of a star.

Isaiah looked forward to the coming of the Messiah. He wrote this: “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; on those who live in a land of deep shadows a light has shone.”

Today we live in a world that is darkened by war, violence, sickness and suffering. All of us have experienced darkness in our personal lives and in our families – sorrow, disappointment, illness, pain, sin, guilt and loneliness.

Fortunately for us, the lamp, Jesus, lit in our world continues to burn. It shines amid devastation. It is a persistent and defiant light which no darkness can overpower.

Each of us can be a source of light to a darkened world. But unless our own lamp is lighted, we won’t be able to enlighten anyone else. There is great joy in being in the light. But there is an even greater joy in being a source of light to others. God has called us out of darkness into the wonderful world of his son. We must live as children of the light. The effect of the light is seen in goodness, right living and love.

Finally, I would like to quote my friend, Thomas Merton, “To say that I am made in the image of God is to say that love is the reason for my existence – for God is love. Love is my true identity. Selflessness is my true self. Love is my true character. Love is my name.”

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