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2016 Christmas Message from Bishop Steven J. Raica
“He wanted to come among us!”
So many Christmas carols strike a resonant chord in me during the Christmas season. Traveling around the 21 counties of northern Lower Michigan for various events, I am taken by one carol in particular: “I wonder as I wander.” The words are simple and straight forward: “I wonder as I wonder out under the sky / How Jesus the Savior did come for to die / For poor on’ry people like you and like I / I wonder as I wander out under the sky. // When Mary birthed Jesus ‘twas in a cow’s stall / With wise men and farmers and shepherds and all / But high from God’s heaven, a star’s light did fall / And the promise of ages it then did recall.” All through my own wandering, I am reminded of the “promise of ages”: The promise of God to send a Messiah; the Promise of God not abandon us; the promise of God to provide us a way that we could know of His abiding love and tender mercy for each of us – “poor on’ry people.”
St. Bernard of Clairvaux, the 12th century French abbot of the Cistercian community, provides some powerful insight as to the “promise of ages”: “All you who lie in the dust, wake up and sing praise, because the healer comes for the sick, the redeemer for those who were in slavery, the way for those who were lost, the life for those who were dead. He comes, the One who will hurl our sins into the depths of the sea, who will heal all our illnesses, who will carry us on His back to restore our original dignity. Great is His power, but greater still is His mercy, because He wanted to come among us in this way, when He could have simply settled for giving us help.”
“He wanted to come among us …” These words summarize the affection God had for each of us. Jesus came among us so we could see Him, hear Him, touch Him. He was one like us … but more! Those who encountered him were left astonished and amazed, unless their hearts were closed or anesthetized by their own fixed ideas. Instead, Jesus showed us how to live our own life fully and completely because it is what He did. He showed us how to love fully and completely because He died for us. He showed us what hope looked like because He rose from the dead and restored life! His coming among us is not confined to an event years ago, it is happening today by those who bear the name Christian and have committed their lives to Christ and follow Him totally and completely.
Oh yes, “I wonder as I wander.” As I wander, I give thanks that the light of Christ’s birth shines forth even more radiantly today. It leaves me astonished and amazed that I contemplate in silence the wonder of God’s merciful care: “He wanted to come among us…”!
I wish you a very Merry Christmas to you and your loved ones.
+Steven J Raica
Most Reverend Steven J Raica
Bishop of Gaylord