SCRANTON – Hundreds of people filled the Cathedral of Saint Peter on Christmas Eve to celebrate the Nativity of the Lord.

The Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, served as principal celebrant and homilist for both the 4 p.m. and midnight Masses.

The Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, uses incense to bless the creche inside the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Scranton during the Vigil Mass of Christmas on Dec. 24, 2023. During the blessing, he asked that all people who look upon the manger be reminded of the “humble birth of Jesus.” (Photo/Mike Melisky)

During his homily, Bishop Bambera acknowledged conflicts taking place in many parts of the world, including in the Holy Land and Ukraine.

“May the message of this day so permeate our hearts that peace will one day finally become a reality for all people,” Bishop Bambera said.

The bishop said that many people, unfortunately, look for God in the wrong place and self-righteously point fingers at others who are different than themselves.

“And then we wonder why our world is unsettled, our hearts uneasy, our families broken, and why countless numbers of souls are suffering in Israel, Ukraine, far too many places in our world, and in our own land,” Bishop Bambera continued.

Instead, the bishop said the “miracle of this day is that despite living in a world that’s been turned upside down, we are once again blessed with the opportunity to embrace the good news of Christmas – good news that proclaims God’s love and mercy to everyone who is humble and wise enough to know where to look to find it and how to keep it alive each day.”

Bishop Bambera began the Vigil Mass by blessing the large, beautiful creche which adorned the right-hand side of the Cathedral sanctuary during the Christmas season.

“God of every nation and people, from the very beginning of creation, you have made manifest your love. When our need for a savior was great, you sent your Son to be born of the Virgin Mary. To our lives, He brings joy and peace, justice, mercy and love. Lord, bless all who look upon this manger. May it remind us of the humble birth of Jesus and raise up our thoughts to Him, who is God with us, and savior of all,” the bishop said in his blessing.

As the Christmas season approached its conclusion, Bishop Bambera celebrated Mass for the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord, Jan. 7, 2024, in which he reminded the faithful that Jesus did not remain in a manger forever.

“He went forth to embrace the work given to him by His Father: A mission grounded in humble service; unconditional and sacrificial love; and unlimited forgiveness and compassion,” the bishop explained. “These are the real gifts of Christmas – gifts available to all who open their hearts to Jesus’ presence – from those who worship with reverence and devotion; to the suffering poor who are unable to find their way to a church; to refugees and immigrants seeking a better life; to modern day victims of terrorism and war in the Middle East, Ukraine and beyond; to the magi of our time: every soul who seeks meaning, purpose, and a way forward in life through an encounter with the living God – including me and you.”