Christmas joy: Our Lord among us
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
This Christmas, it is my joy and privilege to extend heartfelt Christmas greetings to you. Each day I hold each of you in prayers as priests, deacons, consecrated persons, faithful laity, mothers and fathers, young and old. Thank you for the great gift you are to me in our Diocese of Sioux City. All of you will be remembered in a special way in my Christmas Masses. You bring joy to my life as priest and Bishop and I count you all as my friends. May our Diocesan Family along with each particular family give glory to God for the gift of His Son, our Lord among us, Emmanuel! (God is with us)
What really do we celebrate at Christmas? We believe that on this Christmas night, the Incarnate God (God made man) makes the mystery of His incarnation and birth unmistakably known. “A child is born for us, a son is given to us; dominion is laid upon his shoulder, and he shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Almighty God, the Father of the world to come, and Prince of Peace” (Is 9:6). Choirs of angels appear to simple shepherds, heralding Him with joy, and they run to find and adore the Child so proclaimed. A star appears unexpectedly in the sky, visible to all, and distant wise men discern its hidden meaning and set out to find and adore the infant King. His parents bring a newborn infant to the Temple, and the prophets Simeon and Anna recognize and adore the one Israel has awaited for generations: “Lord, now you let your servant go in peace; your word has been fulfilled. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all the nations, a light to reveal you to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel” (Lk 2:29-32). Christ desires and intends that everyone, young and old, rich and poor, learned and ignorant, come to adore Him. The Good News of Christ’s birth is for the whole world, just as the whole world awaits the light of Christ.
We who are the members of His body, the Church, bear that light in His name. This is why we cannot forego the preparation and purifications of Advent, and leap right into Christmas, the way the world attempts. Unless we prepare, we bear His light but weakly. Unless we are cleansed and renewed, we reflect His light but dimly. But with our Advent of joyful and hopeful faith, we may now shine bright, so that all our neighbors may recognize in us that “Prince of Peace,” a light to the whole world. This will be the more true, if we shine in our Christmas joy for the whole of the Christmas season, until the Lord’s Baptism on January 9. Don’t take down your Christmas tree and decorations at least until then. This is truly the Christmas Season. (I leave my Christmas tree and nativity scene set up until February 2, the Feast of the Presentations of the Lord!) We have much to celebrate. Let’s not be afraid to witness to those around us the joy and gratitude we have. Christ is born and all is changed!
I hope and pray for each of you, that you will continue to prepare and celebrate the most joyful arrival of the Infant Jesus. On the night of His birth and the days to follow, may you then be filled with a more perfect joy and faith. May you receive the gift of union with our saving Lord, as the culmination of every gift offered and received in His name. Please continue to pray for me, for all families, for all our priests, deacons, and religious, and especially for those whose sufferings make the joy of Christmas seem more a burden than a divine gift. Know that each of you, with your needs and hopes, are always in my prayers and intentions. The peace, joy, and light of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you!
Your brother in Christ,
Most Reverend R. Walker Nickless
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