The Most Reverend Dr Fintan Gavin and the Right Reverend Dr Paul Colton write:
Christmas 2022 is here. Yet another year has passed with all its many changes and immense challenges. Yet, the Christmas message remains timeless. ‘The Word became flesh and lived for a while among us.’ God is with us. Jesus Christ is the light who shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not put out that light.
More than that, in a time of so many threats to our humanity and our well-being – the continuing pandemic, war in Europe and conflicts around the world, poverty, famine, migration on a massive scale, poverty, homelessness – the Christmas Message speaks pointedly and timelessly once more into these and many other situations too.
What could be more challenging to us all individually and as a society at this time than the experience of the Holy Family? ‘There was no room for them at the inn.’ In their country at the time the whole world was in upheaval and on the move. The lives of Mary and Joseph were turned upside down by the unexpected. Their baby was born in a vulnerable and unsuitable place. Many wondered what was going on and what it all meant. Many still struggle to understand. That young family had to leave in a hurry to escape the threat of violence and death. They were given safety and shelter in a neighbouring country. All of this, seems to speak to so much in our own time and context still.
Our calling as followers of the baby born that Christmas Day in the manger is to love the baby born in the stable and the adult he became, to love God whose love for us is unending and never limited, and, because of that love, to love our neighbour. As an adult Jesus taught us that our neighbour isn’t just the familiar person next door. Again and again, we are called, by him whom we follow, to love and to respond to the needs of strangers and to offer hospitality to them. The generosity of so many Irish people at Christmas time is inspiring as we reach out to support those who are most vulnerable in our society. As we respond to the seemingly timeless challenges of people in our communities we become instruments of God’s timeless love and presence.
Together, at this Christmas, we pray for God’s blessing on you all and thank you for all that you do as neighbours to and for each other, friend and stranger. May the peace of the Christ-child be yours this Christmas.
Bishop of Cork and Ross.
Bishop of Cork, Cloyne and Ross