“Do not be afraid.” This was the message that the angel spoke to Zachariah, to Mary, to Joseph, and to a group of shepherds on a hillside near Bethlehem when they were faced with uncertainty and confusion. Today, through the Gospel, the angel speaks to each one of us giving us hope and comfort: “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy … for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
Fear and worry can seize our hearts when we see ourselves caught in a cyclone of disasters beyond our control. Fear can prevent us from knowing the love and goodness of God. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus talks about tiny, defenseless sparrows in the context of fear and worry: Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the [sparrows]: They do not sow or reap; they have no storehouse or barn, yet God feeds them. How much more valuable are you than the birds! This shows that God takes care of us; He knows our needs, and also our struggles and challenges.
Our life is surrounded by so many fears and uncertainties like Mary and Joseph. Mary experienced fear on that very first Christmas day when she was in labor, when her Child was to be born in a stable, of all places, and when the shepherds greeted her. “What is happening here?” she might have asked. But then she heard the echo of the angel’s words to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary . . .” It was a comforting message to Mary, asking Mary not to live in fear but to trust in God. At the same time, shepherds were huddling on the windswept hillsides outside of Bethlehem. All of a sudden the sky lit up and an angel proclaimed: “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy… for unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” The shepherds’ fear turned to joy as they heard the good news that a Savior was born, the Messiah, in Bethlehem, the city of David himself. Their fear was transformed into joy, peace, and hope when they saw the Baby, the Savior of the World.
Our Savior came to rescue people in danger, preserve those who are threatened by harm, and to protect his people from the troubles that surrounded them. That is what God’s messengers do, and that is what Jesus came to do for us. Therefore, do not be afraid because God has sent us a Savior—Jesus Christ the Lord. He is the One who will save us and will never leave us or forsake us.
Many people don’t know the true meaning of Christmas. They think Christmas is about giving and receiving of gifts, Christmas dinner, and family around the table. But as good as all that may be, it isn’t nearly as good as the Real Christmas. The real Christmas message is this: God has sent a Savior for you, to save you from your sins and to help you in this life—to lift your burdens and ease your fears; our God Incarnate is with us always.
During this wonderful time of joy, I want to express my profound gratitude to all who helped to decorate the church and make our Christmas liturgy such a wonderful celebration of faith: our academy children, children from religious education, altar servers, lectors, Eucharistic ministers, ushers, ministers of hospitality, liturgical musicians. I also want to thank those who helped with the church environment, Rosemary Wellington, Grace Garmo and their team and also the parish maintenance crew. I also want to thank several individuals and groups for arranging Christmas programs/dinners for various groups in and outside of our parish community, particularly the members of St. Vincent de Paul and the Santa Sophia Parish Life team. I pray that our gracious God may continue to bless us, our families and our parish community. Merry Christmas and God bless! -Fr. Devdas