Children from the Catholic Community of Hopewell Valley sing for the 2018 Christmas Eve Mass in St. George Church, Titusville. Joy is often easier to hear about in “glad tidings” that are shared with others, Bishop O’Connell writes in a Christmas message. Hal Brown photo
Children from the Catholic Community of Hopewell Valley sing for the 2018 Christmas Eve Mass in St. George Church, Titusville. Joy is often easier to hear about in “glad tidings” that are shared with others, Bishop O’Connell writes in a Christmas message. Hal Brown photo

Sometimes, when we’re all alone, we hear things differently, more clearly than when we’re surrounded by others in a crowded room, in a class, or in an office where the phone keeps ringing and people file in and out. Things sound different when on a busy street, a crowded train or bus, or maybe sitting in traffic that doesn’t seem to move. Sometimes an empty church may be the place where things sound different than they do when preachers preach and choirs sing.

Catching The Word: Bishop’s 2019 Christmas Message

Things you may have heard a thousand times before: a Bible text, a poem, an article we’ve read and talked about; a phrase or saying, song or conversation that we’ve had with others. Or, perhaps, in these December days, a Christmas carol. Familiar, yes – but strange in a sudden newness.

When we’re alone, the words sound different because we have the time to think, to hear them and the sound they make as they touch our mind and heart with no one else around.

Perhaps it is in a candle’s glow or the warm golden flame from the fireplace, before the Christmas tree with tiny lights that flash their holiday reminders. As we gaze upon those kinds of Christmas lights, we can hear what we have heard a thousand times before – differently, more clearly.

The manger scene, the crèche.  We know the words that tell its story. We have read and heard them many times before and even struggled to put them into other words, homilies written to say just what the story means. 

But silence is the sound that makes me hear their lesson differently. 

The child and his mother; St. Joseph and the shepherds; the kings along their way; the stable; the crib of straw; the animals all around; the star and the angel.  “Behold, I bring you glad tidings of great joy.” 

Joy is often easier to hear about in “glad tidings” that are shared with others. 

It sounds different, however, when we are alone. And sometimes it is good just to be alone, to push aside the rest of the world for a moment or two and listen to the reasons for Christmas joy: the One who was delivered that Christmas night has brought deliverance. The One who was innocent has saved the guilty. The One whose birth was so humble has scattered the proud and lifted up the lowly. The One who was born has given new birth to us all. 

What was once beyond our grasp has become, is now and ever shall be among us.  We’ve heard it before, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”  But there is new joy in hearing it again, differently and more clearly.  And when we hear it and the joy becomes our own, then is the best time to return to others and bring them “glad tidings of great joy.”

Humans were never meant to be alone for long.  And the joyful feast of Christmas makes that so very clear: God is with us, Emmanuel, whether we are with others or by ourselves, when our faith brings us together or in those special moments of prayer when our faith moves us to draw apart for just awhile. 

This Christmas, may we make time to know the joy that Jesus brings!

Merry Christmas, and all God’s blessings in the New Year!