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home : from the bishop : from the bishop February 21, 2019

A waiting world welcomes the dawn of salvation
A Christmas message from Bishop David M. O'Connell, C.M.

That Night and Early Morn

It was so long ago, when Jesus Christ was born.

Who knows what it was like, that night and early morn?

The prophets tell a story and we have heard their tale.

A virgin mother giving birth to our Emmanuel.

And other authors tell us the carpenter was there,

A Joseph with his Mary, and their surroundings spare.

The time is still uncertain, yet some sky watchers say,

The date the star appeared, that date was Christmas day.

So shepherds came and wise men, with gifts on camels’ back,

They heard the angels singing, above the cattle’s shack.

Good will, the Child brings us, and peace on earth they said.

Our hopes have now been granted and grace upon his bed.

A newborn and his mother, a man’s protective eye,

Gave watch to our redemption beneath the eastern sky.

So humble, his beginnings, so simple and so pure,

Who knew that Christmas morning, the life he would endure?

It was so long ago, when Christ the Lord was born,

And our salvation first appeared,
that night and early morn.

+David M. O’Connell, C. M.

I wake up very early most days.  I rarely, if ever, have to set my alarm clock.  I love the early morning when everything is peaceful and quiet.  And in the silence of those first moments, it seems that God and I have some of our best conversations.  My mind is not cluttered with schedules and busyness.  The crush of meetings, travel and the day’s activities appear far distant at that time.  I watch the dark of night slowly give way to the light of another day.

In the season of Advent, as Christmas fast approaches, my thoughts and prayer turn to the mystery of our salvation: the birth of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh.  In many respects, what I experience very early each morning is not unlike what humanity experienced that first Christmas day.

When God created the world, no one really knows for sure.  We only know that God created it.  God said, “Let there be light” and there was light --- at least until man dimmed that light through original sin.  And, so, humanity waited and waited, hoping that the light would be restored.  The ancient scriptures are filled with promises and predictions that it would be and our faith was born from those prophecies.  Slowly, ever so slowly, the darkness gave way and Jesus Christ was born: “God from God, Light from Light, True God from True God” as we profess in the Creed each Sunday. 

The Old Testament prophet Isaiah foretold this marvelous moment in time:

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who lived in a land of gloom a light has shone. You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing; They rejoice before you as people rejoice at harvest … for a child is born to us, a son is given to us; upon his shoulder dominion rests.  They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9: 1-5)

The dawn of light and of day is, indeed, an excellent metaphor for the coming of Jesus Christ into our world

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1: 14).

A waiting world looked for the coming of the Messiah the same way it waits for the coming of the dawn and the daylight it brings.  In the quiet of night, light breaks through the darkness and, suddenly, we can see again.  In the quiet of night, a Word is spoken and, suddenly, we can hear again.  In the quiet of night, God’s glory is revealed and, suddenly, grace and truth are ours again.  Christmas is that Light, that Word, that Glory and it is ours, as Christians, on Christmas day again and every day of our lives, full of Grace and Truth. 

“For a Child is born to us, a Son is given to us” … and we name him again as He is: “Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.”

“And with the dawn there is rejoicing and gladness for the upright of heart (Psalm 97: 11).”  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


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