“Rejoice in the Lord always”, says St. Paul! That is how we are called to celebrate the birth of Christ Jesus our Lord, with rejoicing and gladness. But, how do we begin to embrace joy with hearts broken for the poor victims of violence from the school in Newtown, Connecticut? Is there room for rejoicing? I dare say “yes”, there must be room. Otherwise, there is no hope; and without hope, there is no life.
The mother of a young victim of the Columbine shooting of nearly 14 years ago spoke from experience when she said that the families of these dear souls will never truly be the same. It will take a long time before they begin to realize they can live, hope and laugh again. We pray that one day they discover that their suffering can become a source of inspiration that can accomplish tremendous good for others.
That is the message of our faith and the reason why the Son of God took upon himself human flesh and entered into our world as a helpless child on that first Christmas. God gives us the gift of life and freedom, through which we can come to know love. There cannot be true love without freedom. But with freedom, comes the freedom to embrace evil; and evil, in all its forms, brings suffering, sorrow, and death in this life.
Into that darkness enters Christ, who is the light of the world. He comes not to take away our freedom, but to be one of us. “I am with you”, says Jesus. “I suffer with you and for you. I take every sin and sorrow with me to the cross and I have won the victory. I have risen so that you may know that death is not the end. In me is the hope of everlasting life!” That is the true and lasting joy of Christmas.
Long after the glitter of a shiny new gift has faded, the real meaning of Christmas offers us hope of lasting joy. Jesus is the light that scatters the darkness through the promise of eternal life. We must share this joy with others. The love of Christ must shine forth in how we love and serve each other in his name, not only those who love us, but everyone in need. Let us show the world that there is, even in the midst of darkness, cause for Christmas joy.
A blessed Christmas to all!