SCO Christmas Message 2018 Bishop Brian Mcgee.
Have you ever wished that you could have been present at the first Christmas night? Imagine hearing the angels sing! The wonder of seeing Jesus just after he was born, lying in the crib. Would that, like Mary, we could have pondered the mystery in our hearts. If only we could have known the joy of the shepherds. Such an experience would have been so wonderful. Isn’t it a pity we never experienced it?
However, there is no reason for regret. Those who encountered Jesus at Bethlehem, or anywhere else in Israel – as a child or as a man – had no advantage over us. It is possible for us to have the most intimate and personal relationship with Jesus for he lives within us! During the Last Supper Jesus urged: “Make your home in me as I make mine in you.” (John 15:5). “You will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.” (John 14:20). However, do we experience this deeply personal encounter with the Lord?
During the Mass of Christmas Day, St John’s Gospel proclaims that although Jesus is “the true light…..the world did not know him. He came to his own domain and the world did not accept him.” (John 1:10-11) Is it not sad and tragic that God prepared the Chosen People for the coming of Jesus and yet he was rejected? Is it not equally sad that our own society rejects him today? Are we ourselves any better? St Teresa of Avila, in her masterpiece The Interior Castle, emphasised that at the very centre of our being Christ resides radiating light and beauty – longing for us to benefit from his presence – but unfortunately very few Christians are even aware of his internal presence.
St Teresa’s insight begs the question – would I have recognised Jesus at Bethlehem? On that holy night would I have been filled with joy, as only a few were, or would I have been indifferent to the divine presence like the majority? Yet the beautiful truth is that today we can still intimately encounter Jesus. This is God’s Will, it is only ourselves that prevents it. During Advent, we heard the voice of John the Baptist pleading that we repent and prepare the Lord’s Way. Only then can we truly experience Jesus. This Christmas let us open up our hearts to the Lord. Let us seek silence amidst the noise to reflect on his love. Let us be prayerful. Let us turn away from sin and reach out to others in love. Then, with open hearts and minds, we will recognise Jesus and rejoice in his presence.
It would certainly have been lovely, but it was not necessary, for us to have been present at Bethlehem. For today we can still see Jesus’ glory that is his as God (c.f. John 1:14). Christ truly lives within us, longing for us to encounter him. May you do so and be thoroughly blessed this Christmas season!