President's Christmas Message
Message delivered by the University President during the Institutional Christmas Program on December 21, 2016 with the theme: "Feliz Navidad: Christmas Around the World".Date: December 22, 2016Posted by: Evangeline S. Anastacio
We live in a troubled world. Everyday, we read in the papers about fighting, about war and turmoil. Innocent people are being killed; families have to leave their land because they are no longer safe in their own country. People are hurting, not only physically but even emotionally and psychologically. We hear about Christians being persecuted for their faith. Terrorism exists in many parts of the globe. Right here in our country, everyday we hear about cases of extra judicial killings, despite the fact that government leaders are claiming that there is peace, many still live with anxiety and people are losing hope. We, ourselves, have our own share of disappointments, tragedies, maladies, and heartaches in our life.
Is it possible to celebrate Christmas in such a troubled world?
The situation at that time when Jesus was born is not far from the realities that we see in our world today. The prophet Isaiah writes that the light that was coming into the world, came to a people shrouded in darkness. There was gloom; there was distress. (Is. 9:1-2).
At that time, Mary and Joseph were forced to leave their home town of Nazareth and had to take a hundred miles arduous trip to Bethlehem. At that time, there were no highway and no cars; Mary and Joseph were forced to walk several days over hills and valleys, through desert and streams. Theirs must have really been a very dark and laborious walk.
And when they arrived in Bethlehem, as the gospel tells us, there was no room for them in the inn. All that they had was a filthy stable where animals were kept and there is where Mary gave birth to Jesus; she wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger (Lk 2:1- 7). In the conditions surrounding Jesus’ birth, we see the Son of God born amidst utter simplicity and poverty. Poverty was not the only source of darkness; a few days after Jesus was born, there was the threat of persecution by King Herod; and so Mary and Joseph had to flee to Egypt with the Baby Jesus because they were in danger (Mt 2:13).
Such were the dark realities during Christ’s birth. But was this not, in fact, predicted by the prophecies in the Old Testament? Did not Isaiah say, "For behold, darkness will cover the earth; and deep darkness the peoples” but He also said, “The people who walk in darkness Will see a great light; Those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them (Is. 9:2)… “But the LORD will rise upon you and His glory will appear upon you (Is. 60:2)”.
When there is light all around us, we cannot appreciate the beauty of the stars. But when there’s total darkness, that’s when we can see how beautiful the stars are.
Henri Nouwen, a Jesuit spiritual writer writes, “ the world lies in the power of the evil one. Indeed, the powers of darkness ruler the world. We should not be surprised when we see human suffering and pain around IS. But we should be surprised by joy every time we see that God, not the evil one, has the last word. By entering into the world and confronting the evil one with the fullness of Divine goodness, the way was opened for us to live in the world, no longer as victims, but as free men and women, guided, not by optimism , but by HOPE.”
And so, is it possible to celebrate Christmas in our troubled world? Oh Yes!
Jesus, in fact, came as our light. He is, in fact, our HOPE. As John wrote in the Gospel, “And the light shines in darkness; and the darkness overcame it not.” (Jn 1:5).
Christmas reminds us that Jesus is our Emmanuel, our God with us. Jesus is the LIGHT that will never leave us. He is the constant light that is here to stay. No matter how dark and troubled our world may seem, it can be restored back to life when the glorious light of the Son of God shines into our heart.
And so, as we wait for Christmas day, with the advent song writer, we pray,
“When darkness closes in,
when courage fails and hopes grow dim,
Lord Jesus, come.
Clear the shadows from our sight;
set our troubled world aright.
Fill our eyes with radiant light,
Lord, Jesus, come!”
My Christmas wish for all of us is this: May we bring the love, joy, peace, hope, and the light of Jesus to our family, our relatives, our friends, and even to those who are not our friends. May we share the love of Jesus to everyone we meet. We may not be able to solve all the problems in our world. But as we carry the light of Jesus within us, we will be creating tiny sparks in our community… And thus bring light to our world.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and your loved ones.
Sr. Ma. Evangeline Anastacio, SPC
St. Paul University Manila