Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
The prophet Micah foretold the birth of a child saying, “He shall be peace” (Mi 5:4). Isaiah too spoke about a child’s birth: “For a child is born to us, a son is given us. . . . They name him Wonder-Counselor, God Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace” (Is 9:5). In the stillness of night, in a humble manger to faith-filled parents the long-awaited child was born. He brings with Him the answer that can calm our fears and reinvigorate our hope.
The song of the angels, “Glory to God in the highest,” prompted the shepherds to go “in haste” to Bethlehem (Lk 2:14, 16). The peace announced by the angels is more than an absence of conflict or overcoming foreign invaders or overpowering enemies. The peace offered by the child is the fruit of restored relationships with God and others, when all humanity enjoys God’s friendship and recognizes the face of Christ in others.
How we long for this peace! Peace within our hearts and in our homes; peace within our towns and cities where violence is too prevalent; peace in our Church where the wounds of the abused run deep; peace for faithful priests who experience the skepticism and mistrust of the faithful; and peace in our world where conflicts are perpetrated in the name of religion and displaced refugees search for a safe haven.
We yearn for a world in which people live in right relationship with one another, where trust in relationships and human affairs is evident, where people can live without fear and deprivation. We long to hear the angels’ message, “Do not be afraid, for behold I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. . . . A savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord” (Lk 2:10).
“O sweet Child of Bethlehem, grant that we may share with all our hearts in the profound mystery of Christmas. Put into the hearts and minds of men and women this peace for which they sometimes seek so desperately and which you alone can give to them. Help them to know one another better, and to live as brothers and sisters, children of the same Father. Awaken in their hearts love and gratitude for your infinite goodness. Join them all together in your love. And give us your heavenly peace. Amen” (St. John XXIII).
The Prince of Peace is with us. As we celebrate the Child’s birth and His “coming” into our lives, whenever we are open to receive Him, may we be agents of His peace.
For the commercial world, Christmas will end at midnight on Christmas Eve. In the liturgical calendar, however, Christmas is just the beginning of the Christmas season — a celebration that will continue for 12 more days, until the feast of the Epiphany.
During this time, keep the mystery of Christmas alive in your hearts and minds. Might I suggest that one way to do this is to visit the crib scene in your parish church. Contemplate the mystery of the Prince of Peace and ask Him to help you to witness to His truth, His love and His peace.
A blessed Christmas to you and all whom you love.
Devotedly yours in Christ,
Most Rev. Robert J. Cunningham Bishop of Syracuse