The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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December 22, 2000 Issue
Bishop Banks' Corner

Bishop Robert J. Banks
Bishop Robert J. Banks

Only the real Christmas will sustain us

God showed his love by sending his only Son to be one of us

First, let me wish all our readers a Happy and a Blessed Christmas. May the Christmas celebration help you to know how much God loves you and yours.

As we prepare to celebrate Christmas this year, our country is still smarting from the tough election battle of the past several weeks. Fortunately the two candidates, after battling it out so fiercely in the courts and the counting rooms, have united in calling our nation to work together for the good of all with our new president-elect. But it seems that some followers of the candidates have a more difficult time putting down their cudgels.

We can hope that our celebration of Christmas will contribute to a peaceful acceptance of the hotly contested election, and it certainly is a time in which we can pray for both President-elect Bush and Vice President Gore and their families. These days cannot be easy for either family, though in different ways.

This will not be the first time that Christmas has been affected by politics and by counting. Notice how the Gospel story of Jesus' birth starts off. "At that time Emperor Augustus ordered a census to be taken throughout the Roman Empire.."

Thus the night that Jesus was to be born, Mary and Joseph found themselves in a strange town looking in vain for a room where they could stay. They didn't find that room, so for almost 2,000 years people's hearts have been lifted as they hear the ancient story read, "She gave birth to her firstborn son, wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for him in the inn."

Our hearts are lifted at Christmas time for a number of reasons. Sometimes it is because the world is at peace and is prosperous. More usually, it is because our family is at peace, is healthy, and everyone is able to gather for the celebration. And it always helps that the neighborhood is bright with lights, the familiar carols are heard, and people seem to be extra pleasant. For many a special part of the Christmas celebration is the trip to church for Mass, and on this one occasion you never hear the too familiar complaint, "It's boring!"

Then into each one's life comes the Christmas when a loved one is no longer at the table, or the family gathering is at a hospital bedside, or a job or marriage has been lost or has become hateful. As I write this message, I just received a telephone call from a former parishioner who is going through such a Christmas. The words that pretty much summed up her feelings this year were "I hate Christmas."

The Christmas she hates this year is the beautiful Christmas we humans have put together with our loved ones over time. The Christmas that will sustain her and all of us, if we can make our way to it, is the real Christmas when God showed his deep love for each of us by sending his Son to be one of us. That Christmas is the one we celebrate at Mass each year, when by the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus comes among us to love, to heal, to forgive, to strengthen, to reassure us that "All will be well."

May this first Christmas of the new Millennium bring you and yours the peace and assurance of that first Christmas.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Robert J. Banks
Bishop of Green Bay

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