My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

In place of my usual column, I wish to use this space to send all of you very special and heartfelt greetings at this holy time of the year. We celebrate the coming of Jesus as Savior, born of the Virgin Mary, even as we prepare to welcome him again when he comes in glory. Christmas is always one of my favorite times of the year, and I think I got that from my father, who always became like a little kid at Christmas.

This will be my first Christmas among you as your new archbishop, and I am most happy to celebrate this beautiful feast with all of you who are already becoming very dear to me. My mother, Joyce, would also want me to convey to you how welcomed she has felt and how grateful she is to be able to celebrate Christmas among new friends here in western Oregon.

Clearing away all the “hustle and bustle” of this time of year, which can create a distraction for us, we must reflect on and rediscover the true meaning of this feast. What is it that we are celebrating? Many of us know well the slogan of recent years: “Jesus is the reason for the season.” That is very true, and we can all answer that we celebrate, of course, the birth of Jesus. But I think we need to reflect more deeply on this mystery, which is so much at the heart of the message we must proclaim in the new evangelization.

You will discover over time that I may be your archbishop, but I am at heart simply a believer with all of you. I am what Cardinal Timothy Dolan once referred to as a “meat and potatoes” kind of Catholic (apologies to the vegetarians and vegans out there!). In many ways, we must get back to the basic proclamation of the “good news.” So, as we celebrate the birth of Jesus, we must ask ourselves, “Why did he come?”

“Jesus,” the name given to the child by the angel Gabriel in his message to the Virgin Mary, means basically “God saves.” Jesus Christ has come to save us. God comes to the rescue of his people. The Word became flesh to redeem us, to free us from the grip of sin and death. In the “Word made flesh” we have been rescued from the power of Satan, reconciled to the Father as his sons and daughters, and given the promise of eternal life with him in heaven.

With all of the attention given to the words of the Holy Father, Pope Francis, I have seen little attention given, especially in the secular press, to his many references to the devil. I can’t recall any modern pope making more references to the evil one in his first few months. Perhaps it makes some uncomfortable. Maybe it should. We must never lose sight of the fact that Jesus conquered Satan in his saving death on the cross and gave us the fruit of that victory, namely the forgiveness of our sins and the gift of eternal life.

In many ways, the basic proclamation of the Gospel comes down simply to this. The second Person of the most Holy Trinity, the eternal Son of God, took upon himself our human nature and was born of the Virgin Mary. He “dwelt among us” and is Emmanuel, that is “God with us.” In that same body that was formed in the womb of his holy Mother he took upon himself our sins, and on the altar of the Cross, he offered himself in sacrifice for our salvation. He took upon himself the eternal punishment due for our sins and instead gave to us who believe and live in him the reward of eternal life.

Now that is good news! It can be summed up in the often quoted Gospel of John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” But we also have to know and acknowledge that we need to be saved!

This is what we celebrate at Christmas. It is not just about the birth of the baby Jesus. It is just as much about why he was born in the first place. It is because God so loved the world — that God so loves you and me. So rejoice and be glad!

As Jesus comes, he brings the warmth of the light of his love to scatter the darkness of suffering, doubt, fear and every sadness that plagues the human condition. At this Christmas time, let us welcome that light again and open our hearts and our homes to Jesus Christ. May we never take for granted the message of his love and mercy for us.

As we look upon the face of the Christ Child with his Virgin Mother and with St. Joseph, we are gazing into the face of God who loves us. May the light of that face be with you, your families and your loved ones this day and throughout the year that is to come.

God is with us! May he abundantly bless you!