Christmas is an annual occurrence based on a historical and saving event: the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, which Christians commemorate liturgically using the same name. In a materialistic society like ours, Christmas has been converted into a season for buying and selling, for spending and consuming, for show-off and waste. And in this enormous consumer traffic, the message that we remember as Christians, the significance of which we celebrate on this occasion is manipulated, glossed over or lost, or even forgotten.
The significance that Christmas has for the world in general and for Christians in particular is enormous. What we are celebrating is the birth of JESUS OF NAZARETH, who is for all peoples a model of Humanity and Divinity: since Jesus is both divine and profoundly human.
When we confess Jesus as God who has become human, we are confessing at the same time the final and definitive destiny to which all humanity is called: incarnating divinity in history, and in daily living humanizing the divine life. At Christmas time, therefore, we celebrate the joyful and hopeful certainty that in the birth of Jesus, God has shown that he wants to live with us always, revealing in himself the Way, the Truth and the Life to which we have been called.
The historical fact of Christmas occurs in the context of a family. Among the many aspects that give meaning to the commemoration of the first Christmas, the value that God accorded the family in the birth of Jesus takes on special meaning among us.
We are experiencing in our times a profound human crisis in all aspects. The serious problems that are evident in this crisis reveal a more profound and definitive crisis in the very heart of human beings: a de-humanization that is contrary to all that is meant or implied in the message of Christmas. Yet, at the same time, the serious social problems that emerge from the heart of people have their origin in a profound crisis in the family.
There is an extensive list of great conflicts which today threaten the family model proposed on that first Christmas Eve and presented in the proclamation of the Catholic Church in the Western world:
- The generational gap between parents and children in a world that is rapidly changing.
- The breakups, divorces and rapid and easy annulments in “express” fashion.
- Unfaithfulness in a pan-sexual society where such is proposed and stimulated.
- The lack of commitment in a hedonistic society that delights in levity, changes of fashion, meaninglessness, easy come-and-go, throw-aways, appearances that are purely superficial.
- The world of academia and labor that separates, alienates and disintegrates families.
- “Machismo” and feminism.
- The pretended scientific manipulation of God’s designs concerning creation and family life.
- Promiscuous use of tobacco, alcohol, and drugs.
- The senselessness of life in a society that quickly destroys the will to live, when the end of life is reduced to something merely material and historical, masking the transcendent vision of men, of the world and of history, etc….
In a world that pleads for the plurality of ideas and life style as well as respect for individual liberty and human rights, the Truth — under that pretext — should not be denied, confused or diluted in the midst of the rash of individual, small and almost always selfish pocket versions of truth. It is the Church’s responsibility, on the basis of the Good News contained in the gospel for every man and woman of good will, to proclaim every day and, especially at Christmas time, that every person has the right to be born and “to grow in grace and wisdom” in the bosom of a family constituted by a father, a mother and children: a family model in which are replicated and lived out the relationships defined as parental love, and filial and fraternal love, that we recognize and venerate in the very heart of the Holy Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The troubling statistics that cry out to us concerning the millions of boys and girls that seek to “grow” and “mature” in “homes” that are dysfunctional, with a single parent, or “substitute” homes, with grandparents and other relatives or in government institutions that try to “replace” inexistent families, sound an alarm that warns us of something that is occurring in our communities as well as an urgent challenge for us to give value to living out the model of Christian family suggested in the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ.
- Nostalgia for homes where parents and children live together in harmony.
- Nostalgia for homes like the example of Nazareth: where the parents love and fulfill God’s will, loving and nourishing the the life of their children.
- Homes in which the children fulfill God’s will, obeying their parents.
- Homes that tend toward the construction of a world of fraternal relationships lived out first at home in family relationships.
- Homes in which love and respect prevail over the circumstances of life that are always difficult and always changing.
- Homes with parents that are dedicated to the care of their children, and where the children are attentive and devoted to their parents.
- Homes that are true domestic churches, initiating the experience of the church and seedbeds of permanent evangelization.
- Homes in which parents and children grow in their humanity, cooperating with the creative work of God through their daily tasks.
- Families that are true homes, that is to say, where the home fires burn with love that is able to warm and illuminate a world so often cold and in darkness.
I join with you in these days in which as Christians we live with the memory of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. I join in the joy of the world because “to us is born a son, a child has been given to us” that bears the name “Emanuel, meaning God is with us” and I encourage you to extend into all our homes, our family groups, our communities, the great, good, sacred and eternal lessons which we can learn and apply in the life of our family, illustrated in the home of the Sacred Family of Nazareth, on this Christmas and always.