One’s ‘yes’ is at the heart of Christmas

Christmas decorations began going up well before Thanksgiving Day. I received my first Christmas card
a few days prior to Thanksgiving Day. We began the season of Advent three days after Thanksgiving
Day. As we all know, the season of Advent continues until the celebration of Christmas. The official end
of the Christmas season is the feast of the Baptism of the Lord (the Sunday following the feast of
Epiphany) after which Ordinary Time begins.

This is a very special time for all of us as we prepare and celebrate the world’s most important event in
human history, the Son of God coming among us to save us and lead us back to the Father for all
eternity. Has there ever been a greater gift? But I wonder if we will see the celebration continue until
January 12, 2014, in our culture, in our cities, in our parishes? Undoubtedly, no! For many, the
decorations will be taken down shortly after Christmas Day. All will be put away until next November.
Life will return to its wintry normal. As the world moves into “ordinary time,” the birth of our Savior,
the greatest expression of the Father’s love, will be just a memory.

In moving toward and into the Christmas season, it is important to reflect upon the impact and meaning
of this salvific event in our lives. But it must extend far beyond just this time of the year. In other words,
the real meaning of Christmas is part of our past but must also be part of our present and future. The real
meaning of Christmas defines who we are and to what the birth of this child call us. This gift should
continue to impact us every day in how we choose to follow Christ. A continuous reflection on this
beautiful event will never cease to move us into a deeper relationship with the Lord.

So how do we prolong our reflection on the importance of this event far beyond the celebration of
Christmas and the Christmas season? I believe that it first begins by reflecting upon the “heart” of the
matter. It is all about two important things, first, the profound love of the Father for us, his children and
our salvation, God’s “yes” for us. “For 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. For God did not send his Son
into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:16-17)

Second is the response of the two most important individuals in the history of salvation, Jesus and Mary.
As we read in John’s Gospel, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the
Word was God. He was in the beginning with God” (John 1:1-2). Jesus first said “yes” to the Father,
leaving his rightful place to come among us as a man, born of the Virgin Mary. It was his obedience to
the Father which set into motion our salvation. It was also his “yes” when he “humbled himself,
becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:8) that fulfilled the covenant love of the
Trinity.But it was also Mary’s “yes” that allowed her to become the tabernacle that held the Son of God, the
“Word made flesh.” When this young virgin said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be
done to me according to your word,” (Luke 1:38) she, too, gave God permission to use her for his divine
purposes so that his kingdom might be established and fulfilled on this earth.

Jesus and Mary are the cause of our celebration during this season. It was their unyielding faith, their
unwavering hope, and their deep trust in God’s love that precipitated their selfless responses. Their
“yes” released upon the world a new life of grace, holiness and redemption.

From this we can see how important one’s “yes” to God will be. You and I are invited to respond
likewise each and every day. Like Mary, we too are called to be the living receptacles of Christ’s love in
the world. Like Mary, our “yes” to this invitation has divine consequences. Though the season of
Christmas ends on January 12, we prolong our reflection on the importance of this event when we allow
the Holy Spirit to continue to reveal to us the magnitude of the one lying in a manger, Jesus,
“Emmanuel,” God with us. Each day in our reflection, we ask the Lord Jesus to be born anew in our
hearts so that like Mary, we too will say, “May it be done to me according to your word.”
As we come to the end of this Advent season and move toward the season of Christmas, be assured of
my prayers for you and your families.

During this time of celebration, may the Lord bring you the gift of unyielding faith, the blessing of
unwavering hope and the grace of deep trust in his love. A Blessed Christmas to all of you.