Whoever you are, wherever you’re from, welcome to this celebration of Christmas. I’d like to really emphasise the welcome you are being offered for two reasons: first, one of Jesus’ primary values was welcoming people no matter their religiosity, social or political status. Being welcoming is, therefore, one of our primary values as a parish and something we seek to grow in and cultivate at every opportunity. Second, Catholic communities can sometimes be perceived as exclusive clubs for those who attend Mass on Sundays. This perception is an unfortunate cultural relic from 20th century when everyone came to Mass because it was the done thing; for most of us, this would’ve been our parents, but we live in a different world today. Welcoming everyone, no
matter who they are or where they’re from is, therefore, more important now than it has ever been – so I say welcome!
There’s something magical about Christmas isn’t there? The magic of Christmas is one way of thinking about or describing the grace and joy which belongs to God and which we’re given as gifts by God. If we’re lucky enough to wake up on Christmas day with children in the house, this magic is amplified by the excitement of opening presents. I remember waking up on Christmas morning as a child – probably waaay too early – and groping in the darkness for the pillowcase at the end of my bed stuffed with presents. Looking back at childhood memories, I had no capacity to realise that the gifts were mere representations of my parents’ and, therefore, God’s love for me, but that is most certainly what they are.
While we purchase or make gifts for those we love as concrete ways of displaying how we feel, God did the same with his Son. Jesus is the supreme representation of God’s love for every person in the world. That God would come into our world as a helpless baby says something about the precious nature of the gift and invites our contemplation into the mysterious realm of what God is like. While many elderly people grew up with fire-and-brimstone images of God, the helpless child, Jesus – who even needed his nappies changed by his family – refocuses our attention on the true nature of God: gentle, unconditional love.
For many people however, Christmas is a time of isolation and loneliness. Remembering those for whom the Christmas season is difficult causes us to stand in solidarity with them. In this way, we become more alert for the ways that we can be the hands and feet of Jesus (Matthew 25:40), who came as a light to shine in this sometimes-dark world, so that all who put their trust in him
will no longer remain in the dark (John 12:46).
Finally, thank you for being part of this Christmas celebration. When we gather together, we become an even greater sign and symbol of what we truly are: the Body of Christ. Jesus is our Head and we are the many parts who, together, form the Body. Please know that whoever you are, wherever you are from, you are welcome here in Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Community.
With every Christmas blessing
Fr Josh Whitehead