Metropolitan William: Keep the Message of Christmas Alive

Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

Dear People,

After months of waiting for the birth of their first child, Mary and Joseph searched for a place to stay while traveling. Mary was about to give birth to Jesus. They had no reservations in a town where they were strangers. There were no places to stay. Finally, someone offered them a little stable in a cave outside of Bethlehem. Jesus Christ was born into this world in this most humble way. Angels, shepherds, farm animals, and a late arrival of three kings from the Orient were the only witnesses to his arrival into this world.

The Gospel of Saint Luke is our source of a story filled with images which have become a part of our spiritual lives. We hear the gospel story each Christmas and see the nativity icons and crèches in our churches. The images of Jesus being born in Bethlehem used to be visible everywhere during the Christmas Season. Schools, stores, and public places all had the images of the entire Lukan story of the birth of Christ. The story of the Nativity became visible everywhere to remind us and to help proclaim the message to the world that God is with us.

Through political decisions, the display of religious images has been restricted on civil buildings and properties in most cities in the United States. The restriction has influenced businesses to reduce or eliminate religious Christmas decorations which have the true meaning of Christmas. And the trend has influenced many not to display religious images in front of their homes.

We need to keep the true message of Christmas alive. We can continue to try to challenge the secular trend through political means. This may not be successful today. However, we can decorate the outside of our churches and homes with the images and icons of the complete story of Christmas. In history governments have tried to get rid of Christmas, but Christmas has survived and returned in a stronger way through the spiritual power of the message and the devotion of the people.

Saint Francis of Assisi lived in a time similar to ours. The faith of the people was worn down by war and a lack of faith. Near the end of his life, Saint Francis had an idea of how to bring Christ back into the celebration of Christmas. He proposed the reenactment of the story through a living crèche in the town of Greccio Italy. With the help of the people, Saint Francis gathered the people and animals. During that Christmas season, the people and animals were a living crèche. It is a tradition which has continued in Greccio until the present day. Many miracles of healing and spiritual renewal have been credited to the yearly celebration. The tradition spread around the world.

Each year, the Basilian Sisters of Uniontown Pennsylvania with the help of the people continue the tradition of the living crèche before the celebration of Christmas. The faithful and other people travel great distances to attend the event each year. The living crèche makes Saint Luke’s gospel story come alive. Especially for the children, whenever the see the nativity icon, hear the gospel reading or the Christmas hymns, the story is alive and real to them.

Not all Churches are suited for a living crèche. But when we are asked to decorate our churches for Christmas, please help to give honor to the Christ child by responding to the call to bring the spirit of Christmas inside and outside our churches. And when you decorate the inside of your home, you make Christmas come alive in the hearts of your faithful family. When you decorate the outside of your home you invite all to hear and receive the message that Jesus Christ is born and to glorify him.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Most Reverend William C. Skurla, D.D.
Metropolitan Archbishop of Pittsburgh
Apostolic Administrator of Parma

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