Christmas Message 2020

Christmas Message 2020
Even for John something more than sight was required, the assent of faith. As it was in the days of John, so also is it for us.   Click To Tweet

“Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (Lk 7:20b)

This is the question posed to Our Lord by St. John the Baptist.  It is not a verse we usually associate with Christmas, but as we continue to live in these most unusual times an unusual reference seems most fitting.

Though it is not a saying we immediately associate with Christmas, it is found in the Church’s preparation for Christmas in one of the Gospels of the Third Week of Advent.

What an interesting question it is; interesting not because of its content but because of the one who raises it.

Who, more than John the Baptist, should have known who Jesus was?  Was he not the herald of the Messiah who baptized him in the River Jordan?  Was he not the vox clamantis in deserto, the voice crying out in the wilderness?  Was he not the one who stated emphatically, whom you suppose me to be, I am not he; but who comes after me, the strap of his sandals I am not worthy to loosen?

Yet even John needed assurance, reassurance, that the time had come and the promise fulfilled.  Even for John something more than sight was required, the assent of faith.

As it was in the days of John, so also is it for us.  

Those who awaited the Messiah’s first coming were filled with expectation, but their expectation was colored by their perceptions, perceptions shaped by their experiences.  So entrenched were those perceptions that they caused many to ultimately reject the Messiah because his appearance was so radically different from anything they might have imagined.

We who long for the Messiah’s return also live in expectation, expectation colored by our perceptions and perceptions shaped by our experiences.  We must learn from our forefathers in faith to step out of our perceptions and to allow the Messiah to enter and rule on his own terms, even when this is difficult to perceive.

And that is what we celebrate at Christmas, the mysterious, meek, humble and hidden arrival of the Savior of the World!

Unbeknownst to the powers ruling the ancient world—wreaking havoc and shedding innocent blood—unto us a Child is born in a cave in Bethlehem and the government was placed upon his shoulders.  Ignored by the powers ruling the world in our times—wreaking havoc and shedding innocent blood—unto us a Son is given who continues to reign as Prince of Peace in the hearts of those who believe and receive him.

At Sycamore Trust, hope and trust in the ineffable beauty, wisdom, truth and power of this Child continue to sustain us as we strive to bear faithful witness to him at our beloved University of Notre Dame.  We are not daunted by the chaos, confusion, scandal or shame we so often see in the world around us, for we recall that it was precisely into this and to deliver us from it that this Child was born.

We take this time to thank each and every one of you who has joined us in our mission of bearing faithful and humble witness to this Child, a King, born in a stable, protected by a Carpenter, and nestled in the arms of Notre Dame, Our Mother.

In these most unusual and extraordinary times, we wish you a very Blessed and Merry Christmas from Sycamore Trust!

Rev. John Raphael. ’89
Sycamore Trust Board Member

“Preaching of Saint John the Baptist” by Jacob (Jacques) de Gheyn II (1565-1629). Kunsthistorisches Museum (Art History Museum) in Vienna.
O Come O Come Emmanuel, Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, Advent at Ephesus