Advent is a season of Hope. This hope is now realized in the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. In Christ Jesus, we receive new hope in a world that is dark and gloomy; unsure of its future because of growing secularism, relativism, materialism and ethical indifference. When we look at the world with marriage being redefined, family life breaking down, divorces rising and faith in God decreasing, we cannot but be bewildered at what will happen to the next generation. Lest we think that darkness has overcome the light, the gospel tells us differently. The prophet Isaiah said, “The people that walked in darkness has seen a great light; on those who live in a land of deep shadow a light has shone.” (Isa 9:1).
Jesus indeed is the Light of the World. The encyclical written by Pope Emeritus Benedict and completed by Pope Francis, “Lumen Fidei”, speaks of the light of faith that gives hope to a hopeless and confused world that has lost its direction, and humanity unsure of its identity and purpose in life. St John reiterated this when he wrote, “All that came to be had life in him and that life was the light of men, a light that shines in the dark, a light that darkness could not overpower.” (Jn 1:4-5) Indeed, “The Word was the true light that enlightens all men; and he was coming into the world.” (Jn 1:9) He is the radiant light of God's glory and the perfect copy of his nature.” (Heb 1:3)
How is He the Light of the world? He reveals to us the nature of God as Love and Truth. Indeed, the Letter to the Hebrews says, “At various times in the past and in various different ways, God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets; but in our own time, the last days, he has spoken to us through his Son, the Son that he has appointed to inherit everything and through whom he made everything there is.” (Heb 1:1-2) God’s love for us is not simply a sentimental love but a love that is expressed in the total giving of Himself in humility to humanity. That God would condescend to assume our humanity is something too marvelous for us to ponder. The incarnation and the birth of Christ is the first act of Kenosis, self-emptying. This is then concretely lived by a life of selfless love in His proclamation of the Good News and the Father’s unconditional love and mercy demonstrated by His works of mercy, reconciliation, healing and exorcism, culminating in His passion, death and resurrection.
In the same vein, He reveals to us who the true men and women are. Like Christ, we are called today to offer hope to the world by revealing to our fellowmen the love, mercy and compassion of the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. We do this by following Him in His exemplary self-emptying love as we give the greatest gift to our fellowmen above all the gifts we can give, namely, the gift of ourselves in humble service. Like Jesus, at Christmas, we are to make ourselves a gift to others through acts of humble service, loving deeds, and the giving of gifts to the poor and time to those who are lonely and need a listening ear, encouragement and enlightenment. This is what St Paul wrote to the Christians, “God's grace has been revealed, and it has made salvation possible for the whole human race and taught us that what we have to do is to give up everything that does not lead to God, and all our worldly ambitions; we must be self-restrained and live good and religious lives here in this present world. He sacrificed himself for us in order to set us free from all wickedness and to purify a people so that it could be his very own and would have no ambition except to do good.” (Titus 2:11-14) This is the way of the New Evangelization, a gospel that is incarnated in the lives of our people, touching every sphere of human life, culture, economics, politics, social, family, education, media, technology and science.
To be able to do what Jesus has done we need to recover our identity as God’s adopted sons and daughters in Christ. Let not the words of St John also be our condemnation when he wrote, “He was in the world that had its being through him, and the world did not know him. He came to his own domain and his own people did not accept him.” Before we can live authentically in truth and love, we must accept Christ as the Way, the Truth and the Life. Indeed, “to all who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to all who believe in the name of him who was born not out of human stock or urge of the flesh or will of man but of God himself.” (Jn 1:12) In faith, therefore, we are called to confess in the incarnation of the Lord, the Word made flesh, which is one of the greatest mysteries of the Christian faith. “The Word was made flesh, he lived among us, and we saw his glory, the glory that is his as the only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth.” (Jn 1:14)
It is truly a time for us, like Mary and the Magi, to wonder at the love of God, and a time of contemplation of the mystery of God’s love in our lives today. Jesus who knows what it is like to be a man could therefore show us the compassion and mercy of God. Let us not allow the material celebration of Christmas and the merry-making to take away the greater interior joy of contemplating on the birth of Jesus and drawing fresh inspiration and strength from the infant child of God. Hence, like the Magi who came to worship Him and departed by a different route back home (cf Mt 2:12) so, too, we who come to worship Jesus at the Mass and at the Crib must depart by a different route. We do this by living a transformed life of love, mercy, forgiveness and compassion which comes through the joy of meeting Christ and gratitude for His love and mercy in becoming one with us in our humanity. Through Him, we see the face of God. May we too be the glory of God among humanity as we allow those we meet to encounter Christ in and through us! May the birth of Christ give you all a rebirth in Him and fill you with hope, joy and love.
Yours in Christ,
Archbishop William Goh