As another year comes to a close, I think it goes without saying that it has not gone as we originally planned, nor as we originally hoped. And yet, God in His perfect timing meets the Church in her wisdom, providing us an excellent season for renewed hope and powerful witness in the Incarnation of our Lord, as we move from the anticipation of Advent into the celebration of Christmas.

Indeed, we have great reason for hope, because God by the Holy Spirit sent us His only Son to take on flesh, born of the Virgin Mary. He lived as one of us, yet without sin, bearing our sins on the cross for our salvation. And in this holy mystery, the Incarnation of the Christ, we can draw much comfort, for as the Scripture says, “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).

Not only is Christ our hope, but He is also our comfort. In His flesh, Christ understands every difficulty and affliction we face in our daily lives. Christmas reminds us there is no problem we face that our God does not understand, nor does He let us face it alone.

During a year when we are confronted with disease, the intensification of evil, and an increasingly contentious social climate, our firm Foundation is made even more sure. For Jesus, the Light of the world, was born in circumstances we would not have planned: He was born of a Virgin, in the dirt and darkness of a stable, in an insignificant rural town, within a powerless nation run by a corrupt tyrant, who was a puppet to the most powerful empire the world had ever known. If God can give us the greatest Light from the darkest of circumstances, then He will surely bring forth the light of Christ amid the darkness we see in the world around us!

This Christmas season, let us look to the example of obedience set by the Blessed Virgin Mary, and treasure up all these things, storing them in our heart (Luke 2:19). And may the fulfillment of God’s promises at Christmas move us to worship and praise Him. As the letter to the Hebrews goes on to say, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).

Knowing all these things to be true, let us eagerly seek to worship God in Word and Sacrament. Just as the celebration of Christmas is an opportunity to ponder the wonder of Christ anew, it is also an opportunity to renew our commitment to worshipping Him with the family of God. For each of us has an important role to play in doing the work of ministry and stewarding the Faith for the next generation, and it will not happen if we don’t commit to receiving the grace given to us in the Sacraments.

Our individual responsibilities in this matter are each unique, but all equally important. We may be lifelong Christians, running the race with endurance, to be an example for our friends and family. Or we may just be beginning our walk with Christ, preparing to take the mantle as the next generation of the faithful. But regardless of where we stand, our active participation in the faith is equally valued, and necessary if we truly want to see a renewal of Christian hope throughout our community.

Without a doubt, God has blessed us beyond all measure. Let us take heart, then. We affirm every Christmas that God the Father gave us His Son, the Light of the World, in the midst of great darkness. If we really believe this to be true, then we must live our lives consistently with that Truth! And in so doing, God will empower us by the Holy Spirit to shine brightly with the light of Christ in a dark world.

I pray God blesses you and your family with unshakeable peace and joy as you celebrate this Christmas season. And may He fill us with all boldness to exercise a lively faith in the year to come.

Image: Rafael, The Transfiguration (1516-1520), detail