| By Bishop Steven J. Raica

‘The Hopes and Fears of All the Years Are Met in Thee Tonight’

On Dec. 14, Bishop Raica filmed his thirty-fourth episode of Grace & Peace, highlighting Christmas. The complete text of his remarks follows herein.

My friends, grace and peace to you! Listening to Christmas carols every year is something very special. This time of year, particularly, I find myself playing familiar songs that help me prepare for and appreciate the Christmas event. While we sing many of the carols from memory, year after year, taking the time to reflect on a phrase or two can help us reflect more on this event of Christ’s birth recorded in the Gospels. This year, I was struck by a phrase found in the first verse of the beloved Christmas carol, “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” It goes like this: “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in Thee tonight.” What a beautiful line and worthy of a brief reflection!

You see, our lives, especially in recent years, are filled with “hopes and fears.” The hopes and fears often are rooted in clauses that contain phrases like, “If … then.” Or, “If only … then I … .” Or, “When this happens…, I can … .” While hopes, denote something positive, fears suggest something negative. Both seem rooted in the cause and effect of different situations we face. Fears are sometimes those almost idyllic or impossible scenarios, real or imagined, we play out in our minds that have some element of imminent danger which may or may not cause harm. Oftentimes they are part of our dreams. We become afraid that we will lose something truly good. It would diminish a more perfect world – one that is filled with peace, respect, justice, truth, freedom, and beauty. Overall, this is not always a fruitless exercise. We cannot realize our hopes without our desire for them, considering the obstacles or fears along the way. Our cooperation with God’s plan is paramount.

So, what are my hopes and fears today? How do they relate to the plan the Lord has for me?  How do we form a vision that guides us toward what our hearts are seeking?

The final phrase, “are met in Thee tonight,” brings everything together toward a solution. Our hopes and fears are not without a resolution. No! They also intersect with the birth of Christ. Christmas is a great moment, like no other. What our ancestors hoped for was incarnated through the cooperation of Mary and born into our world. “In the flesh,” we say! Jesus looks like one of us. We can meet Him. We can know Him! We can hear His words! We see His gestures and actions among those He met, as we read the Gospels and hear them proclaimed every week.

The fruition of our hopes and the overcoming of our fears would come to nothing if we did not come before the crib in Bethlehem in awe and wonder and see the amazing birth of the child in Bethlehem. Here is Someone Who can fulfil our heart’s desires and quell our fears. We leave more enthralled by Christ than before. Jesus is a gift of God Who comes to us weak and dependent, only asking that we welcome Him into our hearts, our family, our culture, our society. Will you welcome Him? The result will be nothing short of astonishing. On Christmas we meet Jesus, the One Who saves!

What a Holy Night! “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in Thee tonight.” I wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas!