Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

What I Have Seen and Heard (December 24, 2009)

By MOST REVEREND WILTON D. GREGORY, Archbishop of Atlanta | Published December 24, 2009  | En Español

This time of year always brings out the best in most of us. We are inclined to be more gentle and caring about one another. Even the news reports take time to broadcast many of the acts of charity and compassion that seem to abound during the weeks and days that surround Christmas. The lead stories in the newspapers often focus on the generosity of people rather than the violence and deception that seem to capture the headlines most of the time. There is a peacefulness about nature that seeps into our spirits during this time of year.

I often wonder, why can’t we be this way all the time? Why do bad news, disaster, violence, tragedy and hatred so dominate the news except for a few days around Christmas? I suppose that each one of you might have your reasons for this—I know that I have my own explanations. But rather than focus on why the ordinary stories highlight the negative dimensions of human behavior and this time of year provides a few headlines about the noble expressions of our character, I would like to give thanks for even these brief moments of human gentility and kindness. The Birth of Jesus Christ does bring out the best in us all.

For a few hours each year, we tell stories of hope and promise, of joy and generosity, of compassion and gentleness of spirit. Jesus came to make these extraordinary moments the ordinary way that we treat one another. It is for this reason that a Child is born for us. Christ makes us all better with His Birth.

Churches will be filled on Christmas, neighbors will smile at one another, the poor will be fed, underprivileged children will be given gifts by complete strangers, and the immigrants will be treated with honor and dignity. It is the season when all of creation seems to be made new because of the birth of a poor Baby who enriches each one of us.

Christmas is a moment when we treat one another as the sisters and brothers that God intends us to be each day of the year. But quickly, we will return to the ordinary behavior that so fills the news reports with sorrow and fear. I do wonder if the ordinary news stories aren’t really intended to be the exceptional ones and the Christmas peace that we celebrate at this time of year is the normal way that God would have us live and behave each day. Maybe these few hours are the norm and the typical news stories are really the exception to the way that God has fashioned and intends His creation to be.

Merry Christmas, my dear brothers and sisters, hold onto these few hours of peace and joy and make them the touchstone of the New Year that awaits us—may it be a blessed one for all of you and your loved ones!