“Embrace the Good News of Christmas”

Bishop Joseph C. Bambera’s 2022 Christmas Message

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Mary and the Christ Child with angels are depicted in a painting titled “Holy Night” by Carlo Maratti. The feast of the Nativity of Christ, a holy day of obligation, is celebrated Dec. 25. (CNS/Bridgeman Images)

“In the darkness, a light shines. An angel appears, the glory of the Lord shines around the shepherds and finally the message awaited for centuries is heard: ‘To you is born this day a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord’ (Lk 2:11). The angel goes on to say something surprising. He tells the shepherds how to find the God who has come down to earth: ‘This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in swaddling clothes, and lying in a manger’ (Lk 12). That is the sign: a child, a baby lying in the dire poverty of a manger. No more bright lights or choirs of angels. Only a child. Nothing else … That is where God is, in littleness. Littleness is the path that he chose to draw near to us, to touch our hearts, to save us and to bring us back to what really matters.”

These words of Pope Francis challenge all of us as we journey through these final days of Advent to Christmas to reflect upon God’s way of doing things. From the moment of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem two thousand years ago to our encounters with the Holy today, God has continually entered our lives in littleness and in the most unlikely of ways. It could be in the birth of a helpless, vulnerable child, in the face of a fragile, elderly parent, in the poor wandering our streets, in immigrants seeking a better life for themselves and their families, and in simple gifts of bread and wine transformed into the living presence of God.

Sadly, however, we too often look in the wrong places for meaning and purpose in our lives. We pursue worldly success, material possessions, comfort, convenience or power and we miss the heart of where God’s promise of salvation and peace is found. Left to our own devices, we self-righteously express contempt for those who are different from ourselves. We sow seeds of division in an effort to advance our own agendas. And then we wonder why our world is so unsettled – why our hearts are uneasy – our families are broken – our communities are unsafe – and far too many of our brothers and sisters suffering because of war and greed in Ukraine, areas of the Middle-East, Africa, and other parts of the globe.

Yet, in a world that has been turned upside down, we are once again given the opportunity to embrace the Good News of Christmas, that “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life” (Jn 3:16).

Through the Incarnation, God has immersed himself in our human condition – not because of our righteousness – but because of his grace and mercy. This fundamental belief in the limitless love of God, given human shape and form in Jesus’ birth, confronts the brokenness of our lives with hope. It beckons us to move beyond the division and fear that have engulfed our world, our Church and our lives to recognize an essential reality: we are all far more similar than we are different. As such, we are all brothers and sisters who, on our own, are powerless to save ourselves. We are all in need of the heart of Christmas and the power and presence of Jesus – born to save us, to give us life and to enfold us in his peace.

Brothers and sisters, having been assured of his presence in the littleness of human existence, we know where to encounter the living God and so experience his gifts of acceptance, forgiveness and mercy. Recall Jesus’ words, “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers or sisters of mine, you did for me” (Mt 25:40).

During these days that so often challenge our peace, may we pray for the wisdom and humility to open our lives to this great mystery of faith that we celebrate through the Incarnation of Christ. May we welcome and serve him generously and so discover the true and lasting reason for our hope!

With gratitude for the privilege of serving as your Bishop and with prayers for a holy and blessed Christmas for you, your family and all you hold dear, I am,

Faithfully yours in Christ,

Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, D.D., J.C.L.
Bishop of Scranton