On Friday, Dec. 13th, I attended the 2019 The Joy of Christmas Concert of the Jubilate Deo Chorale and Orchestra at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia. Msgr. Louis Marucci, pastor of Saint Andrew the Apostle, Gibbsboro, and Dean of Deanery 2 is the executive director of Jubilate Deo.
It was an evening of glorious choral and instrumental music accompanied by the reading of appropriate Scripture passages; an insightful commentary and live exquisitely costumed tableaus depicting the Christmas story. Familiar carols were sung as well as serious classical musical pieces by composers such as Handel and Schubert.
There is nothing like the sounds of the season to get you in the mood for Christmas. The music brings to mind the story of the circumstance surrounding the birth of the Lord according to the flesh. “I bring you tidings of great joy, today is born for you a Savior.” (Lk 2:10-11)
Among the music performed that evening was GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD by the 19th century British composer, J.Stainer. It is an aria from his masterpiece THE CRUCIFIXION. I was surprised when I saw it on the program because GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD is music usually associated with Holy Week, especially Good Friday.
The words, GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD, are taken from the Gospel of Saint John chapter 3; they are part of a conversation between Nicodemus, a member of the Sanhedrin, and Jesus. Verse 16 is extremely popular — “God so loved the world that He gave His Only begotten Son” (Jn 3:16). The haunting chorus and sweet orchestration emphasized the truth this Scripture verse teaches. At Christmas we celebrate and remember Jesus who is the gift of God’s love for us.
Though we are not worthy of such love, the Incarnate Son of God was freely given out of the enormity of the will of God to save us and not abandon the human race to the consequences of the sin of Adam and Eve. Jesus was given because we need Him; given by God in a manner which we can easily understand. Given as one of us, a human-being, an Infant Child. As the chorus repeated the refrain and the haunting music crescendoed, the powerful message of the Word of God was made clear: Jesus was given by God out of God’s love to be our Savior. Even at Christmas we lift high the Cross. Jesus saved us by His death on the Cross. Christ was born to die.
God’s GIFT of Jesus brings Light, Peace and Joy which are so desperately needed by our world and by us. Christmas is about receiving the divine GIFT of the Savior. God so loved us that God chose to send us the Savior who is Christ the Lord. He bore our sorrows, even passed through our death. We need Him to bring us into eternal glory where the angels ever sing God’s praises.
There is a connection between the birth of Christ in Bethlehem and His passion and death in Jerusalem. The inclusion of the music of J. Stainer at the Jubilate Deo Joy of Christmas concert made that truth obvious. It is a truth that is the Good News of Christmas. Jesus is born to be the Savior.
May God’s blessings be with you, your family, your loved ones. May all who suffer, who grieve or who are alone, find comfort. May our beloved dead be kept safe and may they assist us by their prayers to the joys of Heaven. May the leaders of our country and of the world work for peace and for justice and promote the wellbeing of all.
I thank the faithful of our diocese for your constant support and above all for your example of lived faith. This past year has been exceptionally difficult for Catholics. Yet, our faith bears us through the challenges and the darkness. Our love for the Church remains strong despite the tragedies caused by a few of her sinful ministers.
At Christmas we celebrate this central mystery of our faith — God has so loved us that He gave His only begotten Son. Let us extend this Gift of the love of God to all, especially the poor, the troubled and those who have lost faith.
With a grateful remembrance of you in my prayers and at Mass this Christmas season and wishing you many blessings in the New Year 2020.
Most Reverend Dennis J. Sullivan, D.D.
Bishop of Camden