From the desk of Monsignor Vito A. Buonanno
“The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
Upon those who lived in a land of gloom
a light has shone.” – Isaiah 9:1
For people of faith, the created world reminds us of our Creator, especially during this time of year when daylight hours dwindle as winter solstice approaches. Right before Christmas, we experience the shortest day of the year, when there is more darkness than light. How fitting it is that immediately following, we celebrate the birth of the Son of God – and the daylight increases! Jesus’ birth was the first part of God’s greatest gift to us: sending the Light of the World into the darkness so that we might know salvation.
In this fallen world, many of us have to endure hardship. It can be especially difficult to persevere during the holidays, when people around us are happy and we’re supposed to be joyful. We know that there are some filled with sorrow as they celebrate, carrying memories of departed loved ones, while others are experiencing trying financial situations or strained family relationships. Christmastime brings a lot of these things to the surface. As we gather together with family and friends, we should be enjoying times of happiness, but sometimes people don’t want to be with others. So how do we as people of faith get through such trials?
Learning to Cast Our Cares on Him
We look at what’s happening in the world and in our own lives and we wonder, what is the solution to the disharmony? So many people are working to find a good, peaceful solution. But there are countless manifestations of selfishness, of hatred, of people who want revenge. People do not want to be sensitive to others’ plights and cultures. Today, in our own country, there is concern about the rise of violence and crime in our communities, especially at Christmastime. It is heartbreaking to see individuals who are so selfish and even want to harm others, when most people are thinking about giving and sharing what they have.
I think that God uses difficulties in our lives to show us that we have to trust in Him. It is only with His grace that we can endure, that these trials can pass. Many problems are not easily solved, even during the holidays when goodwill abounds. We can have smiles, we can embrace, we can be near one another, but that is often temporal, and life goes on as before. Without faith, I don’t know how people can endure; for hope was given to us with the birth of God, when He became flesh, taking upon Himself our human weakness. For Catholics, Christmas is more than a happy time of celebration – it is a time to give thanks, for Christ has come! He was born, God incarnate, for the sake of our redemption. His love was given to us most profoundly and perfectly upon the cross.
Yes, the world is full of darkness, but we know that Christ is our light. And not just at Christmas, but throughout the year. He will guide us through the darkness we encounter every day. How wonderful that we can rely on Him!
What It Means to Obey and Rely on God
Consider Mary and Joseph’s experience: it was not an easy time. They were displaced. They had to go somewhere they weren’t accepted for Mary to have her child. And where did Christ’s birth take place? In a stable – with animals, dung, and smells. Shortly after, they had to flee again, leaving the country and becoming refugees. I hope that we as Christians can remember and realize that; the holy family became refugees. They had to go to a foreign land where they didn’t know the language and didn’t know or identify with its faith. They were Jews in Egypt; remember the Jewish people were previously enslaved in Egypt. Yet Mary and Joseph went there at the request of an angel. They just obeyed. However difficult it must have been, they obeyed.
The Christmas story is evidence of the power of faith amidst hardship – not just during one time of the year, but always in continuum. Life continues despite the suffering we face, and our faith helps us bear it and realize that we are a people of light. We are a people of hope, even when things seem dark, for the light that has been given to us is Christ, God become man. Only by His grace can you and I bear the trials of life in a sinful world, knowing that the faith given to us by God grants us the strength we need to endure and overcome all adversity.