From the Desk of the Presiding Bishop

American Catholic Church Diocese of California

Christmas Message 2017

In the Book of the Prophet Isaiah we hear: The people who walked in darkness will see a great light; those who dwell in a land of deep darkness, on them a light will shine.

Lights do not often appear very bright when we see them shining in broad daylight;
but at night, in the darkness, especially when it is our own darkness, we can sometimes see them shining for miles.
Now in each one of the Christmas gospels, we hear a story directed to a particular people who were living in their own particular darkness.

For Matthew, it was the darkness of the Jewish people who needed light to recognize Jesus as their long promised Messiah. So Matthew’s Christmas story tells of the birth of Jesus where he shines like a new Moses coming out of Egypt.

John’s Christmas story is directed to the Greeks, who needed Christ’s light to outshine the wisdom of their own great philosophers. So his story tells of Jesus being God’s very own Wisdom & Light, a Light that was shining long before the world ever began.

In this year’s Christmas gospel, we hear Luke tell the Christmas story. He is writing primarily to the people living in the darkness that was the Roman Empire. It was a neat place to be if you were rich and powerful; but it was the not pleasant if you were poor and living on the bottom like most of its people were. Luke’s Christmas story is telling the people that Jesus’ birth is not made with a royal proclamation read by a Roman soldier from the steps of the local town square; but instead it comes from a whole army of angels high up in the sky, delivered to a group of poor shepherds working out in the fields.

In Luke’s day, shepherds were not thought of too highly. The shepherds were considered to be a real not respected working class group, just a step or two above thieves and bandits. But Luke wants his readers to know that the Good News of Jesus’ birth did not first come trumpeted to the rich or to the powerful. God announced it to the poor and to the powerless, His word came first to the people living life on the bottom.

Each gospel writer is writing to a particular community, a community that had its own darkness and its own set of doubts. Each community is asking these gospel writers,

“What does this Jesus have to do with me? What is it that makes him out to be my Savior?”

To the Jew, Matthew’s Christmas story says: Jesus is the long-promised Messiah for which our people have been waiting.

To the Greeks, John’s story says: Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega. He is the beginning and the end; he is the Word and the Wisdom of God who always was and always will be.

To the poor and to the downtrodden; the shepherds and the outcasts, to all the ones living outdoors and living without hope: Luke says: “He is the Good Shepherd. He has come in search of the sheep who are lost and he will not rest until he is found them and brought all of them back to his Father safe and sound.

Each one of us probably heard these Christmas stories read to us since we were children. Jesus came for each and everyone of us in our ordinariness. He came to call us to himself in his humility. Jesus is the answer to the true desires for which our souls yearn. He is with always and comes to us to the present day in regal, yet simple ways to bring us salvation.

Are we in need of the Jesus which the gospel writers presents to us? Yes, we are in need of a savior to bring us light in the darkness of our day! Jesus is the light of the world who came to bring salvation to you and me!

May the blessings of this Christmas season fill your heart and lead you closer to our True King!

Merry Christmas!
+Martin de Porres
Most Reverend Martin de Porres Griffin