by Rev. Robert R. Cannon, J.C.L.
December 23, 1998
A few years ago, I was on a red-eye plane flight coming home from a conference a few days before Christmas. From thousands of feet up, as I gazed out of the window to the darkened earth, I could see the tiny yet radiant twinkle of Christmas lights so far below. I began to smile as I reflected on how a gift of an infant two thousand years ago continues to lighten our world with a message of hope. God is with us, Emmanuel!
The recent events in our nation's capital and in the world have taken many of us on a roller coaster of emotion during this holy season. We have found ourselves listening to impassioned speeches on whether or not to impeach the president, coupled with debates about private and public sin. We have watched live images of war on our T.V. screens night after night. Right before Christmas. Oh come, oh come Emmanuel! Light and darkness, virtue and sin, war and peace, life and death, truth or falsehood, side by side, how does anyone make sense of all this irony of humanity? Ah! Once again, I am reminded by the gentle lights of the Christmas tree twinkling in the living room, peacefully proclaiming that the hope for the world--your hope, and my hope is alive! The best gift ever and forever is with us, Emmanuel.
In John Paul II's introduction to his encyclical, The Gospel of Life, the Holy Father beautifully reminds every Christian why we have a living hope:
At the dawn of salvation, it is the Birth of a Child which is proclaimed as joyful news: "I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord" (Lk 2: 10-11). The source of this "great joy" is the Birth of the Savior; but Christmas also reveals the full meaning of every human birth, and the joy which accompanies the Birth of the Messiah is thus seen to be the foundation and fulfillment of joy at every child born into the world (cr. Jn. 16:21). (The Gospel of Life, p. 3)
Christ is our light! Christ is our life! As some like to say, "Christ is the reason for the season!" He is the embodiment of the promise of the Father made to the prophets long ago, who longed for a clear sign of God's salvific love for his people. And so we tell ourselves again, our children, our nation, and the world that Christ is the fulfillment of every longing of the human heart, an eternal font of hope for a wounded world. The gift of Christ born into our midst, revealing the immense love and care of the Father in innocence and without pretense, is our cause for joy. As Christians, we have been given the best gift ever and forever! Love is alive and in our midst. Because of him we have the radiant light of love to face the issues of life, with maximum determination, regardless of the cost, burden, or tragic circumstance confronting humanity. Christ's love and life ennobles our hearts to embrace with joy every person with a genuine deep compassionate solidarity as a brother or sister. Why? Because we share the same humanity, the same dignity, and the same image of God. Our hope founded in Christ is a hope to share, tidings of great joy!
Sometimes the world in which we live obscures the most simple of truths. The Birth of the Messiah teaches us how to live and love as people linked together by a common humanity. We are reminded that the greatest and most enduring gift that we can offer to our families, friends, community, nation and world, is the gift of ourselves. God the Father knew this well, when he gave us his Son, who in turn gave his life for us, so that we learn to love and live generously for one another.
The Christmas season is a season of reflection to open ourselves to more deeply receive God's best and enduring gift ever, Jesus Christ. May people see in us the gentle light and glow of Him who has been born into our hearts. Like myself, there are so many people staring out into the night for lights of kindness, care, compassion, tenderness, and love to give them hope. Let us be the People of God who know and believe that God is with us, born in a little town called Bethlehem. Emmanuel!
Rev. Robert R. Cannon, J.C.L., is Judicial Vicar and Associate Moderator of the Respect Life Office for the Diocese of Venice, FL.