God With Us

Father Steve Mattson on Dec 30, 2020

Despite the fact that we’re still under a bit of a “shut-down” in the state, I’m very grateful that we have been able to have public Masses to celebrate the birth of Jesus. He has come. He is born. Alleluia! (The picture above is from our Midnight Mass. Suffice it to say we had sufficient servers!)

In my internet-less rectory, I’ve been listening to more recordings, and I recently listened to the entirety of Handel’s Messiah. (The Academy of Ancient Music gave this performance on the BBC in 1982. Of the versions I have heard, I like this one best. )

As most of you know, it is a masterpiece, showcasing in song the entire salvific life of Jesus the Messiah. We often hear a few pieces around this time of year, especially the Hallelujah Chorus. That is often the finale of Christmas concerts for choirs, and sometimes serves as a postlude to the celebration of Midnight Mass.

If you haven’t taken the time, you might consider listening to it in its entirety. One nice thing is that work was originally written in English, and the libretto is masterful. Handel’s Messiah is a marvelous meditation on the prophetic words about the Christ, and their fulfillment in paschal mystery, culminating in the resurrection of our Lord. The first part focuses, of course, on the coming of Jesus as a baby, the one who was laid a manger in Bethlehem one December long, long ago.

This year, despite the challenges, we are invited once again to welcome little baby Jesus, the Son of God who was willing to humble himself so much to come among us with the goal always only of revealing the love of God. Jesus, born of Mary came in the fulness of time, came to manifest love, to confirm our faith, and to give us hope, even in the midst of the messiness of coronatide.

Covid, of course, has not been our only concern, either individually or collectively. Politically and culturally, we are living in what is obviously a verydivided nation. Add to that what Ralph Martin calls A Church in Crisis in his new book of that name, and things can begin to look quite bleak. The challenges we are facing individually and collectively make us pause, and (hopefully, at least) invite us to pray.

Given these challenges, especially this year, as we celebrate Christmas, let us be sure to remind ourselves (and each other), that the Lord is near. He is Emmanuel, God with us, the Prince of Peace, the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords. Jesus.

This year, again, our “Little Lord Jesus” invites us to come without fear to the manger where he lies as real, vulnerable, and needy as any newborn. He came among us, as one like us, not to intimidate us or to condemn us, but to win our hearts to love, by love.

Jesus, the Word-Made-Flesh, invites us to come to him, to see him, to hold him, and to wonder at his presence. Jesus, the Eternal Son, came into the world—and is here now—for you, for me, and for all the world. He came in love. For love. Out of love. And that’s what he wants for us: love.

We are given the gift to participate in the Trinitarian life of love through our baptism. Empowered by the Spirit, we are called by Love to be Love in the world—right now, in this year of Covid—by shining as lights for the world to see and to wonder at our life together.

It’s all about love. Receiving love, and giving love away. Loving well is a full, good life, come what may. Love is what we were made for. Love is what he came for. May 2021 be a year marked by love of God and neighbor for us all. May we each know the love of God and share that love with others.

The way that we can love well this year is to draw strength from time spent with the One who is love. Let us daily be nourished by the Word of God and regularly receive the sustenance of love, the Blessed Sacrament. The more we come to him, spending regular time with him in prayerful meditation, contemplation, and adoration, the more we will be able to emulate his life, and serve as witnesses to others of what it means to be Christian in the twenty-first century.

As we pause this Christmas like little children, amidst all the “grown up concerns” of this challenging time, let us do the simple things well. Let us draw near to Jesus, the very approachable, even irresistible, baby in the manger, and open our hearts to his love. He longs to love us, and will fill us with his love if we come to him. And that will make all the difference. If we do that, those with eyes to see will know that God is, in fact, with us, because they will recognize him in us. Merry Christmas!

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