The following is the text of an Op-Ed article by Bishop Alfred Schlert, published Christmas morning in the Morning Call newspaper of Allentown.
Christmas is a time for family, a time when we come home to gather with the people we love. We break bread, we rejoice, and we look back fondly on past Christmas moments with our families and friends.
This also is the time to recall the first Christmas, the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem of Judea. Here is the way that story unfolds in the Gospel of Luke:
Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock.
The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear.
The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.
For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord.
And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”
And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
The birth of our Savior, lying there in the straw of a manger because there was no room at the inn, is a historic event. For Christians especially, it inspires not only warm sentiments but also deep reflection.
This humble birth was the defining moment of God revealing Himself to the world. Jesus, while remaining divine, took on our full human nature. He became like us in all things but sin.
Jesus of Bethlehem was born in poverty, suffered horribly, died ignominiously, and gloriously rose, sealing for all of us God’s great gift of eternal salvation.
The event we are celebrating today is remarkable because God now dwells with the human race. God is with us. God himself comes into the world, and the world will never be the same again. The significance of Christmas, the meaning of the Christian life, is that each of us is created to share in God’s very own life, and so to realize our authentic human nature, to become all that we are created to be, to dwell in friendship with God, who is the fulfillment of all our hopes and longings.
The original dignity of the human person has been wonderfully restored, and our proper response is to respect the innate dignity and the full human flourishing of each and every person, especially the weak, the vulnerable, the marginalized, and all those who find themselves without hope.
This time of the year can spur all of us to embrace the gifts of peace, hope, and forgiveness that we all desire. I believe this is a fundamental truth for Christians, as well as for Jews, Muslims, the faithful of the world’s other religions, and those without religion.
All men and women of good will desire peace. They desire hope. They desire forgiveness. This is the longing that God the Creator has placed within all of us, and it is a longing that only God can satisfy, for it is our longing for God Himself.
If you scanned the other pages of this newspaper before coming across this offering from me, then perhaps you already have been reminded that all is not peaceful, hopeful, or forgiving in this world of ours. We get daily reminders of that regrettable fact. Among that disquiet, we are, by our nature, disquieted.
Yet there is always hope.
In the still of this holy Christmas morning, may God renew in us our commitment to bring peace, joy, and forgiveness. May we welcome Him into our hearts, and so have peace, joy, and forgiveness in our homes, our families, our communities, and our whole society.
It’s Christmas morning. Today, Christ is born, in a most unexpected way, to show us the path to true freedom, to the fullness of life.
May God bless you and your family this Christmas and throughout the New Year.