KOTA KINABALU – At the Christmas Vigil Mass, KK prelate Archbishop John Wong quoted Pope St John Paul II that “Christ is the sacrament of the invisible God – a sacrament that indicates presence…. and now, God is with us!”
He brings home the message of Emmanuel “God is with us”, whose birth we celebrate at Christmas… “A saviour born for us”.
Keeping the question “Why do we celebrate Christmas?” burning in our hearts, the prelate invited his listeners to “open the eyes of faith to see that God is not invisible, or distant from any of us”.
He underlined “We can see Him, touch Him, hear Him in the sacraments of the Church, and in the Word of God.”
“He is a God who is never far from any of us. He is present. We can find Him in each of our success, and even in each of our failure, hurt, grief, anger, or joy,” said Archbishop Wong.
He added “We can also find Him in every person, and in our very own life.”
After the Gospel, Archbishop Wong placed and incensed the baby Jesus in the manger. Drawing the people’s focus on the baby in the manger, he probed further “What do you see? What is your experience?”
Archbishop Wong invited the 3000-crowd, who packed the Sacred Heart Cathedral on that Christmas Vigil Night, and occupied every single seat placed between the Cathedral to the foyer of the parish hall, to ruminate the meaning of Christmas by providing three words: Emmanuel, Free Gift, and Silent.
Emmanuel… We need to hear the Lord saying to us “I am the God who is with you here, now and forever. Today, I am born for you!
“Open your life to Him. Let God be in your comings and goings, your joys and pains, your dreams and fears.”
Free Gift... “As part of the physical preparation for Christmas, we have been buying gifts for others, as well as being tempted to expect gifts from others, gifts that you like, or gifts that are not to your liking. But did you realize that the greatest gift for us to receive is the “free gift” that comes down from heaven, the Son of God?
“We should bring this “gift” home, which has been freely given to us by God, and give to your children/family, your friends, your colleagues, your acquaintances, etc.”
Silent… “The familiar hymn Silent Night, Holy Night bids us to share in the ‘night’ made holy by our Saviour. But in order to have a share in the ‘holiness’, we need to be ‘silent’ and ‘calm’ from the many voices that bombard us from the world and from the frenzied busyness that move us from one activity/program to the other.
This year the Cathedral featured two mangers, a beautiful large one at the foyer of the parish hall and a smaller but simpler one at the Sanctuary, which provided a more reflective ambience for the faithful to ponder over the ‘baby’ lying there.
Meanwhile the Christmas Cantata, prior to the Vigil Mass, masterfully crafted a wonderful balance between “fresh” and “familiar”, “new” and “nostalgic”, remembering Christmases past, while celebrating new traditions and the glorious hope of God with us. – CS