How often we catch ourselves fearing that in the last analysis there is no meaning in the chaotic course of this world and that world history divides all men into the stupid and the strong. The prevailing sense is that dark forces are on the increase and that goodness is impotent. When we look at the world, we are struck by a feeling quite similar to the one that men must have had long ago when the sun appeared to be in its death throes as fall drew on into winter. Will the sun survive? Will goodness continue to have any meaning, any power in our world?In the stable at Bethlehem a sign has been given to us that bids us answer joyfully, "Yes!" This Child, God's only begotten Son, is set before us as a sign and pledge that God has the final say about world history; and God is truth and love. This is the true meaning of Christmas; it is "the birthday of the unconquered light;" it is the winter solstice of world history and, amid all the advances and declines of this history, gives us the assurance that, here again, the light will not die but already has the final victory in its possession.

(from: Joseph Ratzinger, "Three Meditations on Christmas," in Dogma and Preaching: Applying Christian Doctrine to Daily Life)

Robert P. Imbelli, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, is a longtime Commonweal contributor.

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