As we grow through life our focus changes as our circumstances and years upon this earth do. When we are young, life is something that is taken for granted and seems not only to have no limit of possibilities but no end as well. In fact, as young people we think that we are never going to die. During our middle years more things begin to happen to us which limit the possibilities before us especially as our physical capabilities begin to diminish. During these years, passing from this life someday begins to take on a more distant possibility. In our senior years, we are content with the direction our lives have taken as any other possibilities are completely out of the question and our physical capabilities are dramatically reduced. At this stage we move in our thinking that we are never going to die to the reality of “when.” "Never, maybe and when" is the change of perspective as our lives move forward.
As we celebrate Christmas, "never, maybe and when" is also before us in regard to the reality of Christ's presence in our lives. Throughout the history of salvation, as we reflect upon it in the Old Testament, it seemed that the Messiah was never going to come. Hope was aroused as the prophets proclaimed this coming over and over again, but the reality of sin and turning away from God darkened the possibility of seeing God's coming. The reality is that God was present but most refused to see it. As we read in the beginning of the New Testament, the perspective of history changes. It seems that maybe the Messiah would come and hopeful expectation was awakened in those anxiously looking forward to the Savior who would change the course of world events. Finally, the inevitable “when” arrives as Jesus Christ, the Messiah and Savior of the world, is born in Bethlehem and the promise made by God was now completely fulfilled in history.
However, this "when" brings an unexpected joy. The Messiah is not only God's promised one who was to come to change the world but is God Himself who has come into the world. Jesus is the Son of God who has now entered our "when." Everything is now a possibility and every moment is the one in which God is present and reveals Himself. The reality of Christmas is not only one that celebrates the history of salvation but which touches and changes our lives, especially as they move forward from youth into our senior years. Jesus becomes one with each of us regardless of our age, background, physical condition, joys and even sorrows. He can identify with us because He experienced what we experience and gives us the hope of new life. The journey of life has never been the same since touched by the hand of God in the Person of Jesus Christ.
Last year, on his first Christmas as Pope, Pope Francis reflected that God in the Person of Jesus Christ did not come into "a perfect, idyllic world, but rather in this real world, which is marked by so many things both good and bad, by division, wickedness, poverty, arrogance and war." The Incarnation shows us the astonishing truth that God loves us so much that the world "is no longer a 'valley of tears' " but "the place where God Himself has pitched His tent; and the meeting place of God with man."
As we continue on our journey in life, no matter what our age may be, God is present to us in ways which go beyond our expectation. We can at times think that things are so difficult that God is never going to be present with us. There are times when the possibility of His presence seems a little more plausible especially when things seem a bit brighter for us. However, Christmas reminds us that God is always with us even when it seems that He is furthest from us. The “when” of this coming is now precisely because He came among us born as a little child of the Virgin Mary. He entered this world in the way in which people would least expect to find Him.
We can be concerned in life as to what we are to achieve or accomplish. This certainly is a legitimate concern and one of the tasks of life. However, in itself our achievements and accomplishments do not bring us real joy. It is only the encounter with the Person of Jesus Christ that brings us this joy. Even our sorrows and failures are the places in which God reveals Himself to us. When Mary and Joseph were given the news of Christ's coming to them, they understood very little of where this was going to lead them in their lives. However, accepting God's will in the present moment in which they found themselves led to God coming into this world in a manner that gave light to what life is all about. We celebrate that reality at Christmas and realize it is a reality for us each and every day.
The joy of Christmas is a special one. However, that joy is with us through the year. When all of the celebration of Christmas has passed and the decorations and lights are taken down, then do we really know the true meaning of Christmas. God will never leave us. God makes all things possible. God is present now. May our journey of life help us to realize this more and more and to look forward to the fullness of being with Christ in His Kingdom.
A blessed Christmas to you and to all of your families. God is truly present among us!
Most Reverend Gerald M. Barbarito
December 19, 2014