A Christmas Message From Archbishop Robert Rivas, Archbishop of Castries

THE mystery of Christmas is the mystery of the light that shines in the dark, a light that darkness could not overpower. St. John in his Gospel says that the Word was the true light that enlightens all peoples (cf. John 1:9). At Christmas time we become very conscious of the divine light shining upon us and the Word breaking through God’s silence and our darkness.

The mystery of Christmas is the mystery of the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us: ‘The Word was made flesh, he lived among us, and we saw his glory’ (John 1: 14). Through the Incarnation the work of Redemption became possible. Pope St. Leo the Great said: ‘The Conqueror’s victory would have profited us nothing if the battle had been fought outside our human condition.’ Mary, God’s highly favoured, was the one chosen to conceive and give birth to Jesus, God’s only Son, the Word made flesh. Jesus is part of the human family; the New Adam.

Image of Archbishop Robert Rivas
Archbishop Robert Rivas

The mystery of Christmas is the mystery of grace affecting the whole human race: ‘God’s grace has been revealed and it has made salvation possible for the whole human race’ (Titus 2:11). In the birth of God’s only Son, God has revealed his plan for the salvation of the entire human race. God’s plan is a plan of hope.

The mystery of Christmas is the mystery of love: ‘Yes, God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not be lost but may have eternal life. For God sent His Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that through him the world might be saved’ (John 1:16-17).

The true meaning and mystery of Christmas can easily become hidden and, indeed, lost in the commercialization and secularization of the sacred feast. Merchants get ‘fat’ on Christmas. Businesses make great profits at Christmas time. They offer trivia and fantasy much of which is far removed from the Infant in the Crib and the mystery of God becoming small for our sakes so that we could become his sons and daughters sharing in the divine life.

Christmas reminds the Christian of his or her dignity. Pope St. Leo the Great writes beautifully about this: “Christian,” he says, “remember your dignity, and now that you share in God’s own nature, do not return by sin to your former base condition…Do not forget that you have been rescued from the power of darkness and brought into the light of God’s kingdom.” Isaiah the prophet foresaw that day when he prophesied: “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light, on those who live in a land of deep shadow a light has shone” (Is 9:1). With the birth of Christ, the true light has come into the world and this light, no darkness could overcome. Christmas without Christ is no Christmas!

With all the beautiful lights that decorate and adorn our streets, buildings and homes at Christmas time, it is important to keep our focus on the true light, Jesus Christ, the light of the world. Without Christ, we are still in darkness. When the Season of Christmas ends, we should be left in wonderment and awe at the awesomeness, the splendour, the greatness and the humility of our God taking on our human nature and becoming one of us in every way except sin. “What God is great as our God?” we should be able to say with the Psalmist.

Christmas is a time for finding God. There was a song we used to sing with interesting lyrics. It asked the question: ‘Did you see God today my friend? Did you see God today? As you walked the streets of the City my friend, did you see God today? Yes, we see God in the stranger and our neighbour and we find God in the poor and homeless, the excluded and the unwanted, the suffering and the helpless, the meek and the voiceless, the hurting and the rejected, the vagrant and the addict. Christmas must touch us radically to bring about a conversion in our lives that affect our values, priorities and the way we see others. Christmas must help us to grow in faith and respect for human life and dignity. Christmas is the celebration of the birthday of life. If, when we look at each other, we cannot see a brother and a sister, then the light has not yet come.

Christmas is a time for giving. One lesson we have learnt well from the celebration of the birth of Christ, Christmas, is the art of giving. God has been generous to us in giving us the gift of salvation. In return we show our gratitude by sharing our gifts and blessings with others. Generosity is widespread at Christmas time. Individuals, groups, organizations, churches, businesses and philanthropists find ways of making their contribution to children, the elderly and those in need. At this time, a spirit of goodwill prevails and people are happy to give. As Bishop I am proud to see the poor, elderly and those in need being cared for. God is eternally generous and we should be generous and caring at all times. The poor and needy should be able to count on our generosity towards them. At Christmas time our giving should be filled with joy as we celebrate the Saviour’s birth.

Christmas does not end on Boxing Day. The Church gives us eight days of feasting in the Octave of Christmas and we bring the curtains down on the feast of the Epiphany when we are invited to take the light, Christ’s light, and spread it everywhere. As Missionary Disciples of the Light, taking the light of Christ to others is our mission and our gift to give.

May you have a blessed Christmas and a New Year filled with many graces and blessings for you and your family.Merry Christmas.

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