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A Christmas Message from Bishop Hebda

12/25/2012

Hebda_Photo_FINAL2_cropped_1.jpg“Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing….” For nearly 300 years, those words from the popular carol, “O Come All Ye Faithful” have filled homes and Churches as Christians around the world gather at Christmas to celebrate the birth of Jesus, giving voice to the affirmation that we find at the very beginning of John’s Gospel: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”

This past year, Catholics attending Mass throughout the English-speaking world have been getting acquainted with a new translation of the Nicene Creed. While for years we had together proclaimed that Christ “was born of the Virgin Mary and became man,” we now express that truth in a new way, joining many of our Protestant and Eastern Orthodox brothers and sisters in professing that Jesus was “incarnate” of the Virgin Mary. The very word “incarnate” focuses our attention on our belief that the child born of Mary in Bethlehem was truly God “in the flesh.” Who can imagine a God so loving that he would actually take on our humanity, even when it meant that the All-Powerful One would be rendered so helpless as to require the maternal care of the young maiden from Nazareth? It was not only Mary who gave him flesh, but Mary who had to feed him, keep him warm, and rock him to sleep.

Our focus at Christmas is rightly on Jesus. Yet the feast speaks to us as well of our God’s graciousness in allowing us to join Mary in giving flesh to his Son. We live in a world that continues to hunger for the incarnate presence of the Prince of Peace; that longs for his healing touch and thirsts for his wisdom. What a privilege it is that we, like Mary, have the opportunity to hold Jesus up for the world to see whenever we reach out to our neighbors in love, or speak his reconciling word, or bring his healing hope into so many situations of despair and division. With Mary, we have the opportunity in our food pantries, schools, shelters and friendship centers to echo the Word of God in the context of our life together in Northern Michigan, to shine his light from sunrise to sunset.

In this Christmas season, I join with the members of our Cathedral parish, named in honor of that Virgin of Nazareth, in inviting you to come to Gaylord in the new year to allow your heart to be inspired by a work of religious art that will soon be unveiled there: a breathtakingly beautiful Madonna and Child. The piece was designed by the late Pietro Vinotti and carved by those who have continued the tradition of Old World artistry and craftsmanship that Mr. Vinotti and his wife, Ida, brought from Europe to their Petoskey studio. It is our hope that this carving of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel will remind us year-round of the message of Christmas, focusing our attention on the captivating beauty of the Word made flesh while reminding us of our obligation to join Mary in continuing to give flesh to that Word.

Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing, O come let us adore him, O come let us adore him, O come let us adore him, Christ, the Lord.

Most Reverend Bernard A. Hebda
Bishop of Gaylord

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