12/23/2010 10:25:00 AM A Christmas message from Bishop O'Connell
Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord... Glory to God in the highest and peace to all who enjoy his favor. (Luke 2: 11-14)
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Things change. Not unrecognizably so but, often enough, change is noticeable. I was struck by that fact last week, while looking at some pictures and home movies of Christmas celebrations taken many years ago. Apart from the obvious changes in size and shape, clothing, hairstyles and ages of the celebrants, the decorations and ornaments heralding the Season seemed different, simpler, changed from what we have today.
The tree was live then but we didn’t dare bring it in the house until Christmas eve; tinsel was meticulously hung amid the old glass ornaments handed down from a generation before; a train set chugged around a raised platform cluttered with cardboard neighborhoods; paper pictures of Christmas scenes adorned the walls; the Nativity had center stage – the whole scene appeared far-removed, almost ancient or, at least, “old fashioned” to my eyes. I viewed these pictures, almost with melancholy, as my mind wandered back to Christmases past. How things change!
Families at that time all appeared pretty much the same on Christmas morning. Midnight Mass behind them, parents looked happy but exhausted, having stayed up most of the night assembling Christmas decorations and presents. Children, squealing with delight but equally exhausted, having stayed up most of the night pretending to be asleep when Santa came. Mom, in her apron, setting the Christmas table; Dad, in his new sweater, supervising the holiday scene; toys scattered everywhere with the kids darting about from one new thing to the other. Andy Williams and Nat King Cole on the record player. It was “family time” as we waited for grandparents and relatives to arrive. And it all felt so good. But things change.
By comparison, our Christmas celebrations today are a bit more polished and packaged. We still look forward to them, although the family rituals have been adapted somewhat. The Season begins earlier and is assembled and dissembled with more precision and probably a bit of disinterest. We are much busier today. Life and its pace seems faster. So much of the tone of Christmas is dictated by shopping malls and a consumer society, even in the face of difficult economic times. But with all the changes that can be observed over the years, one thing has never changed and that is, the “reason for the Season:” Christmas, indeed, has many aspects to it and many ways of presenting itself – some “old fashion,” some cutting edge. But the Christmas season is, in itself, a “beauty ever ancient, ever new.”
Why? Because the birth of Christ spans the decades, the centuries, the millennia from that first night in Bethlehem to this very moment, this very Christmas with a message that is timeless and unchangeable: “For God so loved the world that He gave His Only Son so that everyone who believes in Him may not be lost but may have eternal life (John 3:16).” What a Gift we have received and still receive at Christmas! And no matter how we celebrate it – with the nostalgia of Christmases past or the fast pace of Christmases present – it is the Gift that keeps on giving everyday throughout the year, “news of great joy to be shared by the whole world (Luke 2: 10).”
Glory to God! Merry Christmas to all of you reading this message and may you enjoy all God’s blessings in the New Year!
Most Reverend David M. O’Connell, C.M. Bishop of Trenton