Wednesday, December 24, 2008
It has been an exhausting year. With the pre-taped shows, Christmas parties, and year end obligations it is hard to imagine that Christmas is already here. All the activity too often masks the true meaning of the feast to come.

For many it is also a painful time of year. Some I know are experiencing life threatening illnesses, others are facing eviction and the loss of their savings. It has been a trying year for many of us, financially and otherwise. But as we head toward Christmas I am reminded of something Pope Benedict said during a recent audience. It has been on my mind since I first read it and I thought you might profit from it:

"The entire Church, in effect, turns its gaze of faith toward this approaching feast, readying itself, like each year, to unite to the joyful song of the angels, who in the heart of the night will announce to the shepherds the extraordinary event of the birth of the Redeemer, inviting them to draw close to the cave of Bethlehem," the Holy Father said. "There lies Emanuel, the Creator made creature, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a poor manger."

This "encounter with a newborn who cries in a miserable cave" the Pope said, can draw our thoughts toward those who are poor or ill, those "who desire the joy of a child and do not see this hope fulfilled."

Then he shared something that should give us pause. He said that this Christmas, occurring as it does in the midst of a global economic crisis may be a hidden blessing. These woes "can be a stimulus to discover the warmth of simplicity, friendship and solidarity -- characteristic values of Christmas. Stripped of consumerist and materialist incrustations, Christmas can thus become an occasion to welcome, as a personal gift, the message of hope that emanates from the mystery of the birth of Christ."

In recent years I have become increasingly aware of the dark side of Christmas: The dark reality beyond the holly and the chestnuts roasting that the Holy family experienced. We rarely think about the innocents slaughtered by Herod that presaged Christs appearance, or the isolation and miseries encountered by the Blessed Mother, Joseph, and the Christ Child Himself. Yet this dark side was there, as it is here today. This year we have all been grafted into the darkness of Christmas in some way. If we are attentive in the heart of the night to the great light to come, if we focus on the mystery of God made man coming to us, perhaps what we find in this present darkness may shock and change us as no Christmas before has. May it be so. May the Christ Child touch even those who are hard of heart, wounded by circumstances and mired in the fury of the past. And may you and yours have a Merry and Blessed Christmas. See you in the New Year. Raymond

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