Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Christus Natus Est!
Christ Is Born!
This ancient Christmas greeting fills our hearts with great joy at a time when such a message is needed most in our world so beleaguered by a devastating year of pandemic, civil violence, coarse words, and natural disasters.
It would be good to remind ourselves that Mary and Joseph also faced many challenges and uncertainties as they became the Holy Family of Nazareth. Both lived with the uncertainty of receiving a Child from God under circumstances they could not completely comprehend. They desperately searched for a suitable place to give birth to their Child on the dangerous journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. They were filled with wonder at the visit to their Son by the Magi. And, they knew the fear of having to flee to Egypt to protect their Child from the murderous Herod.
In many ways, this Christmas, perhaps more so than any we have experienced, we live amid much uncertainty and bewilderment. Exactly for this reason, we can see ourselves in the example of Mary and Joseph, finding joy in the birth of a Child, despite the swirling anxieties around us.
Like these Holy Parents, we also find hope: Hope in the salvation Christ’s birth brings us; hope in a vaccine for the Coronavirus (which was administered for the first time on December 8th, the Immaculate Conception); hope that gradually we can fill our churches again, gather as families again, return to school again, and be fully employed again; hope for a better, calmer 2021.
At Christmas, we cannot allow 2020 to pass without expressing deep gratitude to all the persons who heroically provide health care, public safety, essential services, and the daily work that allows our society to function. We have taken you for granted for too long. God bless you for going to work every day, stocking shelves, delivering mail and parcels, mopping floors and cleaning door knobs, responding to emergency calls, donning PPE and going directly into the front lines of COVID, teaching in classrooms, and administering the Sacrament of the Sick to the dying.
Despite the agitation in the streets and the political shouting, the pandemic has forced us to realize that we are created in God’s image and likeness, redeemed by the Infant Savior, and, from the stable of Bethlehem, that we rely deeply on one another as a human family.
May God bless us with good health, renewed spirit, and a true realization and respect for the humanity of our neighbors in 2021. Our hope is in the realization that Christus natus est!
Devotedly yours in Christ,
Most Reverend Alfred A. Schlert
Bishop of Allentown