Christmas Message from the President of the CCCB

Monday, December 15 1997

Merry Christmas! These two small words will be heard often over the coming days. The television announcer will smile and end the news with them the evening of December 24. People leaving work will use them to wish each other a good holiday. Even the cashier at the toy store will greet you the same way, still giving you the bill!

Yet during a season of family gatherings, it is a greeting that can grate the ears of the lonely, the sick, the elderly, and the homeless – that is, anyone isolated from family, friends and society. The words may be kind and joyful, but they can also be a source of sadness: in homes where children have little in the way of gifts, when the poor lack the means to celebrate, or if loved ones are absent. In such circumstances we might find ourselves asking, “Can I really believe in a joyful and merry Christmas?” The answer depends on whether our greeting truly echoes the angel’s message to the shepherds the night of the Nativity. “Be not afraid. Behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will come to all the people. To you is born this day a Saviour, Christ the Lord.” If our simple greeting conveys this joy, touching the hearts of our brothers and sisters, then no matter how caught up we are in daily deadlines, frantic with shopping, or preoccupied with putting up lights and decorating the tree, we will find ourselves being transported to the very source and meaning of Christmas.

The upcoming Great Jubilee reminds us that almost 2000 years ago Jesus Christ was born, the one who is the living presence of God in our midst. The birth of Emmanuel, “God-with-us,” gives birth to hope. A hope from which springs peace, love, mutual care, justice – realities the Gospel describes as the “Reign of God.” A hope enabling us to listen to the Word that transforms hearts. A hope allowing us to share the Life that changes lives. A hope opening us to others, especially the little ones, the poor, the voiceless, who point the way to solidarity. This was also the theme of the recent Synod of Bishops for America, in Rome, that brought together bishops from all over the American continent, North and South.

When it manifests the joy promised to us in the birth of Christ, our greeting comes not only from our lips or out of habit. It becomes the sort of “Merry Christmas” we hear from those in volunteer and community work. A greeting that flows out of the deep conviction that together we are building a more human and welcoming world. A “Merry Christmas” that vibrates with love, friendship and personal concern. A greeting which echoes the heavenly host, praising God and proclaiming, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom God is pleased.” Our rejoicing and celebrating at Christmas can be a way of manifesting Jesus Christ in the world today. In encountering Emmanuel, who gives hope and transforms hearts, our two little words have profound meaning and transcending radiance: “Merry Christmas!”

+ Jean-Claude Cardinal Turcotte
Archbishop of Montreal
Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops