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Bishop Hebda's Christmas Message

12/24/2009

Christ is born, glorify him! Christ came from heaven, welcome Him! Christ is on earth, exalt!                                                     St. Gregory Nazianzen                                                      Homily on the Nativity As I celebrate my first Christmas as Bishop of Gaylord, I hasten to take this occasion to extend my heart-felt best wishes and promise of prayers to all who dwell in the twenty-one counties that make up the Diocese of Gaylord. As the 4th century Archbishop of Constantinople, St. Gregory of Nazianzen, so eloquently reminded his flock, what happened in Bethlehem on that first Christmas requires a continued response in our lives. Like the angels, shepherds and magi who gathered around Mary’s newborn son, we are still called to glorify Christ, to welcome him, and to rejoice as we reflect upon the great gift that was given to the world in the person of that tiny child. My brief experience of Northern Michigan tells me that we are indeed blessed with a population that is predisposed to each of those tasks. In just a few short weeks, I have seen so many signs of a sincere desire to give glory to God. Perhaps it is the natural beauty of this area that makes this so easy. How wonderful to see the many outdoor Nativity scenes that grace our homes and churches and the many reminders – signs, bumper stickers, radio announcements --of the importance of keeping Christ in Christmas. The prayerfulness of the liturgies at St. Mary Cathedral and in the sampling of parishes that I have visited, large and small, all give testimony to a people who strive to glorify God. I have no doubt that this goes on in the many Houses of Worship that dot the highways and byways of these twenty-one counties. Seeing the warm welcome, moreover, that has been given to me, I have no doubt that Christ, often in the form of the “least of our brothers,” would be warmly welcomed into your homes and lives. How many of you, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, have gone out of your way to make me feel at home. The neighborly visits, the tips for driving in the snow, the advice for staying warm, have all demonstrated for me an impressive sense of hospitality and a prevailing generosity of spirit. We see that as well in the many Church-related and community organizations that reach out every day to those in need. As for the signs of exaltation, I have been overwhelmed by the joy that I have encountered here, especially in our youth. They have learned well from their parents that all good things come from God. A sincere gratitude for the many blessings that we have received should make it easy to celebrate the greatest of blessings, the coming of the Lord Himself. For all these reasons, I am confident that we are poised this year for a wonderful celebration of Jesus’ birth. May the Prince of Peace, whom you will welcome and glorify at Christmas, be a true source of joy and strength for you and your families throughout the New Year!

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