MOST REV. DAVID J. BONNAR
Bishop of Youngstown
This is Bishop Bonnar’s Christmas message for December 2022. The Nativity scenes were submitted from across the diocese and published in the December 9, 2022 edition of The Exponent. Find out more about Bishop Bonnar at doy.org/bishop-bonnar.
Dear Clergy, Religious, Faithful and Seminarians,
“Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:14)
As we welcome the birth of the Christ child, we echo the voice of the angel in giving glory to God and extending peace to all.
The angel’s words, however, were not confined solely to this sentence. Indeed, the angel said more. To Mary at the Annunciation, the angel said, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.” (Luke 1:30) At the Christmas Vigil Mass Gospel, we hear what the angel said to Joseph, “Joseph, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her.” (Matthew 1:20)
At the Christmas Mass During the Night Gospel, we behold the angel’s message to the shepherds, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all people. For today in the city of David, a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11)
When we gaze into the creche on Christmas, these same reassuring words, “Do not be afraid,” are uttered by the infant Jesus through his presence and identity, Emmanuel, “God with us.”
Amid our struggles and fears, Jesus takes on our flesh and walks with us. Jesus calls us not to succumb to fear, but to embrace faith. After one of his healings, he will preach this message when he says to the synagogue official, “Do not be afraid, just have faith.” (Mark 5:36)
Christmas is a call to faith, which deepens through the mystery of encounter. This encounter is personal, real, and something we need to continually work at. Christmas is not about just being spectators at the creche, but participants in a loving relationship with Jesus Christ. Every gaze into the creche calls forth an invitation from Jesus to encounter him and allow him to encounter us.
Christmas is not about just being spectators at the creche, but participants in a loving relationship with Jesus Christ.
In his Apostolic Exhortation, “The Joy of the Gospel,” Pope Francis invites us to strengthen this encounter. He writes, “I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them. I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day. No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her ‘since no one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord.’” (The Joy of the Gospel, #3)
During this Christmas season, my prayer for all of us is that we will intentionally renew our encounter and commitment to Jesus, who is not only the reason for the season, as they say, but also the way, the truth and the life.
Merry Christmas! Happy New Year! Together, let us not be afraid and pray, “That all may be one.”
Sincerely in Christ,
Most Reverend David J. Bonnar
Bishop of Youngstown