Christians -- in other words, followers of Jesus Christ – celebrate December 25 not as just another secular holiday, but as the birthday of the messiah; the birthday, in the words of St. Leo the Great, of life itself.
The world we know today is not so different from the world of the first Christmas. Violence, greed, indifference, hatred, refugees, the struggle for power and the oppression of the poor: Despite our best efforts, these are chronic evils for a fallen humanity.
Yet, the reality is this: God loved us enough to send us, through the faith of Mary and Joseph, his only Son. He loved us enough to take on our poverty, our indignities and fears, our hopes, joys, sufferings and failures -- and to speak to us as one of us. He became man to show men and women how much God loves them. He was born for that purpose. He lived for that purpose. He died and rose again for that purpose.
Jesus is Yeshua, which means “God saves.” When Jesus later preaches in his public ministry that “I am the way, the truth and the life,” he is only restating the miracle that begins in Bethlehem. Our redeemer is born in a stable; he is born to deliver us from sin and restore us to eternal life. This was the meaning of the birth on that first Christmas.
It’s never too late to invite the Christ Child into our hearts. Surely this tired, divided and suffering world never needed him more. So this year and every year, may God grant all of us the gift of welcoming Jesus into our hearts this Christmas and throughout the coming year.