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Note: John-Henry Westen is the editor-in-chief of

December 24, 2013 ( – Somewhere – actually, everywhere – there is a soul this Christmas who will be sad and lonely; who will be frustrated and angry.  In some ways that will be all of us, but for some of us, those feelings will dominate. Where do these feelings come from? At the core it is about not feeling loved. 

There are very many people for whom Christmas brings a flood of unwanted emotions. Loneliness and heartache are felt more so at this time of year than any other. It’s not the being alone itself, since there are many who can find real joy in solitude, but it is about not feeling loved.

That is the greatest desire of every man, woman and child – to be loved.  

Amazingly that explains why our sins and failings end up hurting us more than our victims. Our selfishness, our thoughtlessness, our angry outbursts, our gossip, all make us, even (or especially) in our own eyes, more and more unlovable, and yet the unquenchable desire to be loved remains. 

We try to satisfy this deep desire in many ways, some healthy and some not so.  The true ways are to strive to give of ourselves to family and friends, and even to our brothers and sisters not related to us by blood or acquaintance.  But human relations, even family relations are (or can be perceived) as fickle, so even in the midst of loving family and friends we can feel unloved. 

When harsh reality hits and we lose loved ones to death or separation, we feel a loss of love like nothing else. It can be crushing. 

It was ever thus, and will be until the end of time. But wait! There is a key to maintaining an everlasting joy and peace in the midst of even the most horrible suffering this world can dish out. 

Take the original Holy Family for instance. It definitely wasn’t all roses for them. 

Just think of Joseph, who loved Mary with all his heart and felt she too loved him. He then finds her pregnant and must have felt devastated. 

After that disaster was resolved for Joseph, and his beloved was spared stoning, Mary would still carry the unenviable reputation and slander of having been found pregnant apart from Joseph. 

And while at this time many in the U.S. are frantically trying to find insurance for their families, we can recall that the young couple of Nazareth too had to put up with insane government mandates. 

Caesar Augustus decreed that all should go to the town of their births to be registered for a census! ‘Are you kidding me, are you serious? I’m just about to give birth here. Joseph made this beautiful crib and everything is all ready.

‘And where are we going to find a hotel at this late date?’ And when they didn’t, they had the cave – and were grateful for it. 

In the midst of all that suffering there were what we might today call ‘random acts of kindness’ from the shepherds and kings. 

But their challenges were only beginning. Remember, they had to abandon their home to flee to Egypt. So in all likelihood a beautiful cradle that the carpenter painstakingly made for his Son would have never been used by the Child. 

What about all their family and friends back in Nazareth? Oh yes, they had to be left too. 

Even in Egypt, the Holy Family would have heard of the suffering ‘they’ had caused with Herod’s decree of killing all the children under two in the hunt to kill baby Jesus. 

How then did Joseph and Mary in the midst of all these sufferings experience joy? 

It is simple faith. They believed, with a faith with no doubt whatsoever, that God loved them. They knew the truth that God loved them more than any other ever could. A constant, faithful, ardent and true love which never fails and is more present in hardship than any other time.  They relied on this love, they lived in this love, they lived for this love. 

And that is our path too.  ‘But!’ we may say, ‘we’re not holy like they were’. But the most awesome truth of all is that God loves us even though we are sinners! As St. Paul said in his letter to the Romans: “But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” (Rom 5:8) 

Believe in that love, know that love is true and sure and everlasting! Adore that Christ-child in the lowly stable with the shepherds who once poor now reign in glory with the King of Kings born on earth this very night so many years ago. 

We will, in this life, experience loss of family and friends; we will experience sadness and always struggle with sin. But we can maintain peace and joy always by holding on tight to that knowledge of the ever-abiding, never-flinching, deep, true, and willing-to-die for you love that Christ has for you and for me.  

I pray that all of you and your families might have that ever-abiding peace and joy this Christmas and for evermore.


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