The feast of the Incarnation invites us to contemplate on the wondrous beauty of God’s love. This God humbly reached out to us by assuming our humanity. He was born to share our fragile human condition. He came as a little baby without power or strength. He had no room for the night. He chose to be born in a cave without any honour and glory. He was announced to the lowly shepherds, the outcasts of society. Jesus, the Son of God chose the way of humility and lowliness so that He could feel with us.
By His coming, He came to teach us how to love, so that we too might have life. Happiness in life is not dependent on who we are, what office we hold, what social status we have in society. It is given to those who are capable of love. By loving and emptying Himself in humble love and service, Jesus shows us the way to the heart of God. By identifying ourselves with God and loving as He did, we too can participate in His joy and peace.
So no matter who we are, all of us are capable of love and have opportunities to show our love to each other. In the home, we can be more caring, forgiving and tolerant. We can show our appreciation for the things that are done for us and not to take them for granted. We can cultivate the art of gratitude for all that we have and learn to be grateful for small things and not just big things.
Indeed, if we choose the path of Jesus to be life-givers, showing our love and forgiveness whenever we can, we will bring the light and love of God into the world. We can give hope to those in despair.
How can this be done? By allowing Jesus to be born in our hearts! Through baptism and the forgiveness of our sins, we have received the Holy Spirit, the love of God in person. At Christmas, we are to become conscious of the love of God in the Incarnation so that we can actively appropriate the gift of the Holy Spirit to us.
So Christmas is more than just commemorating Jesus’ birth at Bethlehem. More importantly, it is to embrace Jesus into our lives and let Him be born anew in our hearts. Unless Jesus is born in our hearts, there is no Christmas. We are not commemorating a historical event but an existential event. Christmas is not a nostalgic celebration but a celebration of Christ’s birth in our hearts and with Him being reborn in us, we find joy, peace and hope renewed.
How can we receive this love again? We must be like the shepherds who were ever ready to respond to God’s invitation. When the angels announced the Good Tidings to them, “the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.’ So they hurried away and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying
in the manger.” (Lk 2: 15-16)
Yes, they acted on the message of the angels. They were ready to obey and respond. And immediately, they went to look for the new born king.
Secondly, we need to share and talk about the Good News to inspire faith. This was what the shepherds did. “When they saw the child they repeated what they had been told about him, and everyone who heard it was astonished at what the shepherds had to say.” (Lk 2: 17-18) If the Church celebrates Christmas, it is but a way to recall the wonderful events of salvation history. We need to commemorate our history, speak about it, otherwise we forget our connection. So talking and sharing our faith is the way to remember God’s love for us.
During this Christmas season, when you meet with your loved ones and when you reach out to the lonely, it is important to recall the wonderful things the Lord has done for you in your life. By speaking about Jesus who has made an impact in your life, you will find great joy and happiness. We must help each other to remember the love of God in our lives. If the world has lost faith it is because they have lost the memory of God in their lives. We are called to inspire faith by sharing our faith in Jesus.
Thirdly, we need to contemplate His love over and over again in quiet prayer as Mary did. “As for Mary, she treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart.” (Lk 2: 19) Truly, Mary must have reflected deeply on the events that took place and could not but marvel at the mercy and love of God. There are many things in life that cannot be understood with the head, and all at once. We need time to think, feel and pray to appreciate the goodness and mercy of God in our lives.
That is why Christmas would never be an impactful event if in the midst of our merry-making, we have no room for Him at our inn; no time to quietly spend time with Mary and Joseph, contemplating the significance of the birth of Christ.
Finally, we are told that “the shepherds went back glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen; it was exactly as they had been told.” (Lk 2:20) We who have experienced God’s love in Christ too, must glorify Him and praise Him for all that we have seen and heard; not just in worship or in words but in our lives. We are called to be the praise of God in our lives; be the incarnation of Christ to others by our deeds of compassion, love and forgiveness.
Like the angels and shepherds, let us be the bearers of the Good News of hope, peace and love to the world. Let us go out and proclaim, praise and thank God for the gift of Jesus by sharing Him with others in love and humble service, and may the joy and peace of the Christ-child be yours as you make the Good News your own.
A blessed and holy Christmas to all!
Yours devotedly in Christ,
Archbishop William Goh