Archbishop John Wong reverently places the Baby Jesus in the manger before blessing with incense during the Christmas Midnight Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral Dec 24

By Agnes Chai

Dec 29 2021

KOTA KINABALU – Archbishop John Wong said after His birth, Baby Jesus was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger because there was no room in the inn.

The Archbishop announced “This is the Good News that St Luke proclaimed to us tonight; that our Savior Jesus Christ has been born for us; He became man; He becomes food for man, and He would bring peace to all,” as he celebrated the Dec 24 nighttime liturgy.

The Christmas Midnight Mass was celebrated, for the second year in a row, with pandemic restrictions as part of its measures to stem the spread of the COVID-19.

Sanitization was carried out immediately after the 6.00 pm Mass in BM language before the Cathedral door was open again to parishioners who registered for the 8.30 pm English Christmas Midnight Mass.

After the proclamation of the Gospel, Archbishop Wong proceeded to the unlit manger, with concelebrant Fr Joshua Liew and the altar servers. He lifted a cloth revealing the statue of Baby Jesus, which he reverently placed in the manger and blessed with incense.

In his homily, the Archbishop began by recalling the traditional hymn “Silent Night, Holy Night”. He said “All of us are invited to share in this holiness of God, but to share in this holiness we need ‘silence’ so that we may encounter Him who is born for us tonight, and who is present here.”

However, the reality today is that we struggle to find “silence” because we are being bombarded by many noises from the world and from within us, and from the events around us; we are kept busy moving from one activity to another or from one program or project to another.

A spiritual father succinctly described Christmas in this way: it is easy to think or talk about Christmas, and it is easy to believe in Christmas, but it is hard to live Christmas, related the Archbishop.

Christmas, he underscored, is a living reality, which continues to happen, and should impact our lives today.

He continued, Christmas is the time to celebrate this reality; the reality of God’s desire to participate actively in our daily life, leading us towards living our true identity as His beloved sons and daughters.

Thus, he underlined, to live Christmas is to live our identity as children of God with His joy, peace, hope and love.

As children of God, we live with God who is present, alive and active, because we have opened our hearts to receive our Savior Jesus Christ, who is born for us today; He comes to live among us, and desires to live within us, said Archbishop Wong.

He stressed, Christmas is the time for us to encounter Jesus, the Word of God. Jesus comes to give us new horizons in life and wants to direct us to a genuine orientation to live as children of the Father, precious in His eyes, no matter how others regard us.

Therefore, the Archbishop concluded, Jesus wants to speak into our hearts the Christmas message that we are not created to journey life alone, but that the Word made flesh, who dwells among us and in us, desires to redirect our lives towards what is real and essential.

This message of Joy, Peace, Hope and Love is not only meant for us, but also for many “whose lives are dominated by fears, anxieties and uncertainties” because they see God as “absent, distant or indifferent”.

God desires to reach out to them through us as His instruments, underscored the Archbishop.

The Christmas message calls us to respond, stressed Archbishop Wong, and to give the greatest gift – Jesus Christ – to all those we meet by communicating the Good News of the presence of His Love for us.