When we look at a Nativity scene, we see a figure of the infant Christ. On a small plastic figure, we would not expect such attention to detail as to make sure that the child – or Mary or Joseph – have perfect fingernails. Yet I hope that we can take time over the coming days to reflect on the reality of what we celebrate. When we look at the Nativity, we see the fullness of the gospel. The shepherds did not know that this child would one day die on the cross and rise from the dead, but we do. The shepherds responded in joy to the message of the angels, so how much greater should our joy be, knowing the Salvation that this child would bring us. The shepherds would not have had the theological education to realize what we learned in first grade, that this child is fully human and fully divine, a man like us in all things but sin. But we see Him as the Word Made Flesh, Emmanuel (God-with-us) and our Savior. How can we help but rejoice?
A few weeks after I held that young baby, I stood as his godfather at his baptism, and fourteen years later I was his sponsor for Confirmation. He is now a grown man, and I have not looked at his fingernails since he was three days old. But I still remember that day as I think of the young man he has become. (Among other things, he has inherited his godfather’s love of baseball.) So we can remember the joy of our celebration of Christmas as we prepare to see the mystery of Salvation unfolding through the gospel in the coming year.
So as the big day comes, I take this opportunity to say a word of thanks to all who have helped make this Christmas such a joyous time. Thanks to John Lester and those who helped with decorations, Laurie Lanz and all who have worked with her on the music and all others who have contributed to our Liturgies. Thanks to those who have sent me cards, presents or other expressions of Christmas joy and to those who remember me in their Christmas prayers. And thanks to so many others. Beyond that, I take this time for my personal wish to all of you and to all of your families. May Christmas be for each of you a time of joyful celebration and of God’s blessings. In the familiar words of Clement Clark Moore, “Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”