Merry Christmas! It seems like this is the first Christmas in several years that we can use that greeting without the fear of COVID wreaking havoc in our lives on some level, either regarding our health, the disruption of travel plans, or because of onerous government restrictions. And while there will always be health challenges out there from one thing or another, I think it is safe to say that the threat of COVID, the flu, or any other such disease is not at the top of the list of most of our concerns this year. I guess in some ways we could say that it is back to Christmas as it used to be, however, such an assessment would be woefully ignorant of the condition of our world. As we gather for Christmas this year, we must be cognizant of our brothers and sisters in Ukraine who are suffering right now. How they must long to have the most basic things that we take for granted: power, water, shelter and security. The thought of having a sumptuous Christmas feast with family and friends, holiday decorations, and gifts to exchange must be only distant memory for them this Christmas 2022.

I hope that as you gather to celebrate the mystery of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, both here at Christ
the King and in the context of your own family celebrations, you keep the people of Ukraine close to your hearts and in your prayers. There is little that we can do for them in a direct way. The course of this war is being fought on the battlefield even as we gather for our Christmas observances. We hope and pray that the Ukrainian people will emerge both free and victorious. Even though we are not fighting this war, we can still pray for them. Never underestimate the power of prayer! When Russia unjustly invaded Ukraine in March, every expert expected a quick capitulation by Ukraine. I think our prayers have indeed made a difference thus far! The Ukrainians have proved themselves to be remarkably resilient. This should not surprise us. They want the same things that we want for our children and grandchildren, namely that they be given a future, free from tyranny.

And that is exactly why Jesus Christ comes to us as well – to free us from tyranny. It’s not the tyranny of an unjust aggressor nation, but rather from the tyranny of sin. That is why Jesus comes to save us all! Sin enslaves us and deprives us of true freedom. Sin deceives us and warps our perception of what is right and true. Sin distorts us into thinking that bad is good and that evil is acceptable. This is the battle that God wages on our behalf, to free us from such tyranny. Let this Christmas be an opportunity for us all to look ever deeper into our lives of faith and recognize those areas where we have kept the Lord away. Jesus Christ is born in a damp dark cave in the middle of the night – how ironic that this is how the true Light of the World would come! In the end, darkness is always overcome by the light. Maybe there are some areas in your life where you have yet to allow the goodness of God’s love and forgiveness shine.

Here at Christ the King, we have so much to be thankful for! Our parish continues to grow and thrive. Not that we are perfect by any means, but there are so many good people that are part of our parish who continually allow the brilliance of God’s love to shrine through them. There are so many examples that if I tried to list them, it would turn this brief article into an encyclo- pedic set! Over the summer, we will begin construction on our newest project here at Christ the King, the Bailey Center, which will house our new youth center, theater, student dining hall, kitchen, and nursery. This is but the latest concrete example of how our parish family continues to strive to do more. Beyond that we continue to expand our ministries and outreach. If you are visiting us this Christmas, you are most welcome! If you live in Tampa, I hope you consider making Christ the King your spiritual home. The truth is that we are all in this together. We need the support of one another to face the challenges that invariably come from life. Our parish of Christ the King is successful because so many of our parishioners continue to share their gifts. Sometimes, we don’t even realize what gifts we have until called upon to do so. Sometimes, it simply takes the recog- nition of a need to begin a new ministry or outreach. I have seen that happen here countless times.

This year we will begin to make an intentional focus on the National Eucharistic Revival as called forth by our bishops so that as Catholics we can come to a better and fuller understanding of the amazing gift that Our Savior Jesus Christ gave us on the night before He died in the Holy Eucharist. As we glimpse at the Christmas creche, we see that shepherds and kings come to adore and worship the newborn king. While we are neither, we are still called to adore Him – not the representation of Jesus in a nativity set, but Jesus Christ Himself in the most Holy Eucharist!

That is the reason for this Christ-mass and every mass. Even in the midst of this imperfect world, the love of God pierces the darkness. It is for Him that we come and for Him that we return! I hope and pray that you have the happiest of Christmases this year.

Fr. Len