Christmas Message 2020 from Bishop Julius Gitom

Dec 21 2020

Bishop Julius Dusin Gitom of Sandakan Diocese

CHRISTMAS of 2020 is taking place in a most extraordinary time. Given the growing number of COVID-19 infections and the mandatory health protocols, the normally packed churches’ pews would only be filled with a limited congregation.

In a just-released Christmas Message 2020, Sandakan Bishop Julius Gitom laments “Few would have foreseen that this COVID-19 pandemic would have such prolonged devastation, chaos and confusion on our daily life – our economic and social life. We certainly did not foresee that the empty Churches during Easter celebration in April would be again be the featured scene of Christmas celebration this year.”

The Sandakan prelate anticipates “for those who could get admitted to attend Christmas Mass, fulfilling our religious obligation on Christmas would not be a straight forward affair. Strict SOPs such as physical/social distancing and other restrictions would have to be fully observed. And for most of us, our prayers would occur and be confined mostly at home and in cyberspace as have already been the “new normal” practice in the Church today.”

He adds, festivities at the community level would not be possible in the present circumstances, and even family Christmas celebration would be strictly limited to immediate family members only.

But in the midst of this “new normal” and life’s uncertainty, frustration, devastation and confusion, the prelate asserts that we can be optimistic about the future and hopeful that tomorrow will be better.

Calling the faithful to be “strong in faith as we are assured of the Lord’s presence in our life,” Bishop Julius shares the hope derived from the Gospel on Christmas morning which says “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”

He underscores “It is indeed a great consolation to know that our Lord and Saviour is dwelling among his people! God, who is divine and all holy, has become one of us. In this way, Jesus, the Incarnate Word of God shares all that we are; our emotions – our joy, our fears, our struggles – in short, He knows our predicaments and shares our stories as a human being!

“Indeed, the Eternal Word of the Father lives among us; He is Emmanuel, God-with-us (Cf. Rev 21:3). The Son of God in our midst, is not just giving us confidence and hope in Him, but more importantly, calling us together into one body (cf. Col. 3: 15) that truly reflects a Christian community of faith.”

Bishop Julius reiterates, that He who lives among us, calls us to be caring, compassionate, and ready to extend our hands to help those in need, especially those financially and socially impacted by COVID-19 so that they can stand on their own feet and move on in life. As St Paul says, “Let all these things be done in a way that will build up the community” (1 Cor 14:26).

Acknowledging that most of the Christian faithful around the world would celebrate Christmas this year without the possibility of receiving Holy Communion physically, no possibility of celebrating as a community in the Church as we usually do, the prelate comforts the faithful and reminds that “we can still be in communion with the Lord albeit spiritually”.

On a hopeful note, Bishop Julius prays that “this crisis may be a blessing in disguise – that there is more time available for us, as individual and as a family, to reflect deeply that Christ who was born in a manger in Bethlehem is now born in the family and in the heart of each of us.”

He likens “the darkness of the night in Bethlehem” to the “darkness of this pandemic crisis”, and that with “the light of the newly-born Saviour that shines brightly as the sun”, as with the birth of Jesus, there is a new ray of hope as we live our lives in the light of faith. With the birth of Christ Jesus in our hearts, tomorrow will be brighter again for all of us.” (See below for full text of the Christmas Message)

Christmas Message 2020 (full text) by Bishop Julius Dusin Gitom (4 languages)