‘God is near us, so near that he became a child’

Nativity scene in front of St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City, December 2017. Photo: ValerioMei/iStock

We could say that the first word of the New Testament is “be joyful,” “be happy,” in other words, “joy.” This is the true meaning of Christmas: God is near us, so near that he became a child. — Pope Benedict XVI 

That quote, printed in red ink and torn from an envelope of a Christmas card that a Dominican priest sent my family, has rested on our refrigerator for years. When starting to write this column, I checked to make sure it was still there. And it was. 

There’s something so simple and yet profound about that 38-word statement. To me, it sums up the meaning of the great season of Christmas. God wanted to be so close to us that he became just like us (in all things except sin, of course). What an act of love and humility! 

Before we celebrate the joy of the Incarnation, the Church prepares us with Advent. For me, the four-week sprint leading up to Christmas seems more difficult than the marathon of Lent. Lent is simple. I give up something. I try to follow the Church’s rules for fasting and abstinence. I read a spiritual book, and so on. Advent is a different story. This year I’m asking myself, “How can I better keep this penitential season? What am I not doing before Dec. 25 that I should be doing?”

In our December print issue, Judy Landrieu Klein reflects more deeply on the words of Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI), focusing on a series of Advent homilies he gave in 1964. As Judy writes, “Ratzinger’s consistently prophetic voice feels like he is speaking directly to us today.” 

Also in this issue, Fr. Hugh Vincent Dyer, OP, gives excellent, practical ways to prepare our families for the birth of Jesus.

This Advent, let us find more time for quiet reflection and prayer. It is a fitting way to begin a new liturgical year for the Church and welcome the Christ Child into our homes.

Advent … invites us to pause in silence to understand a presence. It is an invitation to understand that the individual events of the day are hints that God is giving us, signs of the attention he has for each one of us. How often does God give us a glimpse of his love! (Homily, Celebration of First Vespers of Advent, Pope Benedict XVI, Nov. 28, 2009) 

On behalf of all of us at Catholic Digest, I wish you and your family a fruitful Advent and a most joyous Christmas! 

You are in my prayers, 


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