Dear brothers and sisters,
Happy and Holy Christmas to everyone!
How can our Christmas be holy?
Let us take our inspiration from the Gospel of St. Luke: “In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zecharias in the desert”(Lk 3:1-2).
We may notice that there are 7 names, seven – being the sign of plenitude, perfection. In two verses Luke mentioned seven names, 5 pagans and 2 Jewish. Why? In that time there were many legendary stories circulating in the Roman empire. Luke wanted to show that the announcement of the coming of Jesus, made by John the Baptist, was not the fruit of imagination or fantasy of some pious people. No. The word of God came to John in a precise year, the fifteenth year of the reign of the Roman emperor Tiberius Cesar and exactly during the rule of those historical rulers.
Similarly, our faith is not based on the imagination of the first apostles, it has a historical base. It is not a fantasy that God is always with us, it is a reality. God is here, with us. He knows very well all that we have in our minds and in our hearts. He is a God who has a very concrete love for every one of us. Holy Christmas is to thank God for His love for me, my family, my children, my neighbour, all those whom I meet in my life. Holy Christmas is when we say to God from the bottom of our heart: Thank You, Lord, for Your endless love for all of us!
Since Luke mentioned pagan and Jewish names together, this means that he wanted to say that Jesus did not come only for a particular people but for all. Jesus does not discriminate. He gave His life for all mankind because we are all children of God. God loves all, Christians, Muslims, Hindu, atheists, etc. He is the Father of all.
In our Vicariate we have to struggle a lot in order to form a certain kind of unity among all the nationalities, languages, Rites, traditions and mentalities. We are like the United Nations, but many times we are not so united. We think that Jesus is for all but in reality we consider Him only for our community. I would like to see at Christmas people exchanging wishes to other people who are not related to them by language or nationality, or Rite. This is Holy Christmas: to love all, to wish all Happy Christmas, to be ready to help all those who need our fraternal presence. In one word: Holy Christmas is to have a heart loving to all like the heart of Jesus.
Happy Christmas to all, my very dear brothers and sisters.
+ Camillo Ballin, mccj
Apostolic Vicar of Northern Arabia (Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia)