Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

My heart is filled with joy as I finally get to wish you Merry Christmas. At this time of year, I enjoy recalling the sights, sounds and tastes of Christmas as a young boy and a teenager. Our home was warmly decorated with a Christmas tree inside and a Nativity Scene in front of the house with snow, lights, pine branches and the Holy Family. We enjoyed the anticipation of opening the doors of the Advent calendar and placing the baby Jesus in the manger on Christmas Eve. We did projects with mom like baking hundreds of cookies or making gingerbread men and fudge for gifts to relatives and friends. We had a fantastic parish Christmas bazaar that included fun, food and games for little kids to carnival type games and bingo. All of this expressed the joy, our love for the Christ and the love we enjoy in the human family. The center of my memories focuses is on the heavenly aspects of the birth of Jesus in the liturgy of the Christmas Midnight Mass. My gaze goes to the angel above the Nativity Scene as we sang Angels We Have Heard on High and Gloria in Excelsis Deo. I imagine how awesome it must have been for the shepherds to be awakened by the choir of angels singing, “Peace on earth and good will to men…” I cannot remember a time that I was not aware that we celebrate a supernatural event of love and family. Yes, before I was five, I knew Jesus was the Son of God born for us out of love to save us.

Christmas celebrates God coming to meet us where we are. The baby Jesus came into our lives to invite us to share the divine life, the new covenant with God and others and eventually to eternal life with God in the communion of saints. God could have come to us in any way, but it was as an “infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger.” Small and helpless, our Lord comes to us. Our hearts are drawn by the little baby gurgling, smiling and waving his tiny little hands. In need of constant care and affection, the Christ Child draws us to him, restoring us to a relationship of love. God knows we need him and that we don’t like to admit our spiritual poverty and dependence preferring to be our own boss. So God penetrates our hearts as a little baby who needs our love.

This Christmas, I express with deepest affection God’s invitation to let Christ come into your heart. Love invites us to overcome false self-sufficiency and spiritual comfort to love God as a helpless child. Our focus at Christmas is of God as our daddy, Jesus as a baby and the Holy Spirit as the comforter. We are reminded that we are surrounded by choirs of angels who intercede for our protection and the Holy Spirit who heals us and guides us deeper into love.

My wish for you and your family and friends during this Christmas season, until the visit of the Three Kings on Epiphany, is that the baby Jesus will pierce your hearts with love. As you are filled with the joy of the coming of Emmanuel, God with us as the baby Jesus, please light a candle and pray for peace on earth through the conversion of sinners and return of all Catholics to the sacraments. I will be with my mom and brothers in Texas for two weeks after Christmas, but be assured of my love for you every day.

Your servant and brother in Christ, Father Paul