A Shepherd's Message - Christmas 2023

December 25, 2023

“The Lord is the eternal God, creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint nor grow weary, and his knowledge is beyond scrutiny. He gives strength to the fainting” (Is 40:28).

These are exquisite words of hope and anticipation by one of Israel’s most sublime and important prophets, Isaiah. We read the words in the second week of Advent, in the time of immediate preparation for Christmas.

God is eternal, everlasting, knowing all things simultaneously beyond our own human scrutiny! Yet God does not grow weary, faint or bored either with creation or with us! He loves all He has made and is generous and intimately concerned with his creatures. Most especially, he looks with kindness and mercy upon human beings and their hopes and anxieties. God the Father does not grow faint but is always alert and generous with human needs. Human beings tend to think too much of their own minds and frequently despair that they cannot do anything to change their lot. But the Lord is always ahead of human beings. In the mysterious plan He unfolded for our benefit, He sent His only begotten Son, whose name is Jesus. The plan, the divine household management, involved human beings in receiving and giving hope, a sheer gift of energy that the Spirit of the Lord poured out on the Earth.

The gift of hope truly made its appearance first in the Virgin Mary of Nazareth. Humble but readily available to do God’s will, to assent to the angel’s message of joy and question of decision, bearing the Son of the Most High. Mary spoke once to the angel her creaturely “word” and conceived and bore the Eternal Word. Her “yes” was, in effect, always ratified by her joyful life of praise, her dutiful life of right counsel for others, her sorrowful life of being at Calvary, and her joyful life at experiencing the Resurrection.

The hope that Mary expressed is a sign of her deep faith in God, her being enveloped by God’s love so that she could respond so willingly. Her Son Jesus always had the living vision of His Father and the Father’s presence with Him. He did not need faith but became the very source for faith in all His disciples. Mary is the first disciple to show faith and to bring human beings a living hope so they would not grow weary and seek Jesus. The gentle Mary pushes all the disciples of Jesus to fall into the arms of the gentle Jesus, always feeding and always nurturing his flock. His yoke is easy!

Christmas celebrates the divine plan, the exquisite work of the Holy Spirit to move the “yes” of Mary, the wondrous scene of angels singing “Gloria” silently over Bethlehem, the journey of Shepherds and Magi to the oxen stall — where all may feed and begin to know the One, the Messiah, who challenges and comforts His people so they will not grow faint and weary, but be strengthened!

Merry Christmas!