Dear Brothers and Sisters in the Lord,
Each year, on the Fourth Sunday of Advent, it is my privilege to speak to you, the people of the Archdiocese of Mobile, and to wish you God’s blessings as we prepare in a few hours to celebrate that God became flesh in order to bring us salvation.
At this time of year we often have pageants portraying the birth of Jesus. I have attended more Christmas pageants than I can count. There is something entertaining in watching young children perform the story of the Nativity. There are the shepherds, wise men, angels, sheep, cattle, donkeys, Mary, Joseph, and, of course, someone’s baby doll prominently displayed in the manger.
However, only rarely do I see a child dressed as a star in the sky and, even when one of the children plays the star, it is even rarer that the child has a speaking role. The star, if it is even mentioned, only stands there and shines.
However, that is what stars do: they are just there and shine and not very dramatically. Stars do not give off much light. No one could read a book by the light of a star. Even though we often refer to the “bright” star that the wise men followed, the Bible does not mention that the star was “bright.” All the Bible states is that the wise men saw the star of the new born king rising and followed it to Bethlehem. There is nothing wrong in thinking that the star was bright, even though the Bible does not mention that the star was bright. However, even a bright star is still a rather small light.
Yet the Star of Bethlehem was used by God in a powerful way to show the wise men the way to Jesus.
I would ask us to think about the star of Bethlehem as we prepare for Christmas.
There is so much darkness in the world. We cannot help but see the darkness in our world. Some of the darkness happens naturally: floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, cancer or Alzheimer’s.
Sometimes the darkness is caused by human beings: drug overdoses, human trafficking, abortion, pornography, corruption, violence, selfishness, greed, callousness toward the feelings of others. The darkness takes many forms.
The Gospel writers used the dichotomy of darkness and light to explain the difference between sin and salvation: For example, the blind man comes to faith in Jesus when the Lord gives light to his eyes. Nicodemus comes to Jesus at night and comes to the true light by leaving the darkness. Jesus tells the Pharisees that, although they could see with their eyes, they still walked in darkness. The Gospel summarizes the evil Judas was about to commit by stating that when Judas left the Last Supper: “It was night.” The Lord, the true light, came into the world at Bethlehem when it was night and all was darkness.
Here this evening we celebrate that the true Light has been born to us. As John’s Gospel teaches: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
If we allow that light to come into our hearts, then we are called to let it shine through us. We may not be viewed by the world as very significant. A single star in the sky may not seem very important either. We may ask what good can I accomplish by living my faith? I am only one person. Our light may not be very bright as the world judges such things. But one star in the darkness of a night sky guided the wise men to Jesus.
The witness of faith which we give by our words and our actions may be that one star that God may use to touch the lives of others and guide them to His love.
God may use our example to touch the heart of someone who has drifted away from God and guide that person to find him.
Our words of faith and compassion can be for those who struggle with deep sorrow, shattered dreams, or broken relationships the words God uses to help them find His love and strength in their darkest moments.
Our presence at the bed of a sick person may not seem significant but may bring the light of God’s love to someone at a critical moment in their journey of faith.
We may not know how God will use our example to influence others. We may feel that all we do is merely stand there allowing our little light to shine but not making much of a difference.
However, as the English poet, John Milton, wrote: “They also serve who only stand and wait.” Let us not become discouraged but, instead, persevere. It is for the Lord to use His light, shining through us, in accord with His love and wisdom.
So as we celebrate that the true Light has come into the world, let that light shine through us. In all the darkness that surrounds us, let it shine. And, like the Star of Bethlehem, God may use our small light to guide others to find Him.
I pray that God will bless you and your loved ones and that each of you will have a merry and holy Christmas.
Sincerely in the Lord,
Most Reverend Thomas J. Rodi
Archbishop of Mobile