Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Merry Christmas! The Christmas season is one of my favorite times of the year. There is something invigorating about the hustle and bustle leading up to the celebration of Christ’s birth. I cannot help but think of Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem more than 2,000 years ago. Between the packing, the journey and then, not having a fitting place to stay, Mary and Joseph experienced their own form of “hustle and bustle.” And then, in the stillness of an otherwise uneventful night, Christ entered the world.
Some years ago on a vacation in Austria, I visited the little church where Silent Night was first sung. This carol -a short of lullaby – says that, “All is calm, all is bright. Round yon virgin mother and Child, Holy Infant, so tender and mild, Sleep in heavenly peace.” After a long journey to Bethlehem, searching to find a place to stay, and the birth of the Christ child, Mary and Joseph had peace. After all our preparations are complete and we are sitting in Mass on Christmas Eve, I imagine for most of us, we also experience a similar sense of internal peace.
It was actually peace that inspired the writing of this carol. Father Joseph Mohr, a young Austrian priest, composed the words to Silent Night just after the end of the Napoleonic Wars. According to legend, Fr. Mohr was walking on a very quiet winter day, looking out over the local town. Even though the after effects of the war were still very present, the town was at peace. Fr. Mohr expressed his reflection of this peace through the lyrics of Silent Night.
This peace however is not just a sense of calm that we experience for a few days in December. At Christmas, we welcome Christ, the Prince of Peace, into our hearts and homes. He is the lasting peace that is with us all throughout the year. With Christ, no matter how busy or chaotic our homes, or our world, may be, we can rest assured that because of His birth, Christ’s peace can reign in our hearts.
As we celebrate our Lord’s Nativity, let us find His peace, celebrating this Silent Night, and remember that Christ, the Prince of Peace, is our God and Savior. He is the Good News that brings genuine comfort and joy.
With prayers, warm wishes and the pledge to remember you in my Masses throughout the Christmas Season, I am
Most Reverend Ronald W. Gainer
Bishop of Harrisburg