“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined” (Is 9:2).

My brothers and sisters, if we ever needed to be reminded once again of the full meaning of the Incarnation, the present situation in the world and in our country presents itself for consideration. “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” (Jn 3:16). Throughout the centuries in this epoch of Christ and the Church, time and time again the world has been assaulted by the darkness of sin, war, racial hatred, disease and pandemics and, time and time again, the Catholic Christian faith has been a light that has shined in the darkness.

In Christ, sin and death — personified as darkness — have been overcome by light — Christ the Word made flesh. The various biblical stories and traditions of Christmas enflesh this truth: The closeness of Christmas Day with its lengthening of days to the day of the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year in the north; the star hovering above Bethlehem, leading the Magi to the stable where Jesus was born; the heavenly voices of the angels rejoicing in the night with the triumphant message to the shepherds that a “Savior has been born;” and the later traditions of the yule log and the lights on the tree and candles in the window all proclaiming that upon those who dwelt in darkness and despair a light has shone. How timely for us to hear these bearings of good news again today.

Yet, what does the Christian message bring to a divided nation gripped by pandemic and increasing political, economic and social separation? Everything. What does our message of hope bring to people who feel isolated, angry and socially adrift? Invitation. I believe that more than ever, just as the message of Christ has been incarnational from its beginning — “God made man” — so the message of Christ that is carried forth in the salvific work of the Church is incarnational as well: God the Father, Son and Spirit in the Church manifested in the baptized believer who makes present to others the fulness of truth that resides in his or heart that God is with us. I think our most important work right now in our families, in our communities, in our places of work is to be with others as a Roman Catholic, preaching the word of salvation by the sermon of our lives.

How can others know that “God is with us?” Because I live as one who says, “God is with me.”

Merry Christmas.

—Originally published in the Winter 2020 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.