‘Do you have a prayer for me this Christmas?’ the question came on the phone.
A prayer I’d like to make for all of us this Christmas goes something like this:
May the birth of the Christ-child be a blessing for each one, and for every one of our families. May the sight of the Crib be a source of new hope and of joy for all our hearts: there is so much more to this family ‘for whom there was no room’ than meets the eye.
Family is at the heart of Christmas from the very beginning. Family and home. This is one reason why we love the Christmas. We long to be home at Christmas and we all long for home. May that deep longing be fulfilled for each of us.
Our Holy Father’s Prayer to the Holy Family stands beside the Crib in every Church in the country this year as we begin our journey of preparation for the World Meeting of Families in Dublin at the end of August 2018. Please God, we will welcome Pope Francis himself amongst us for that occasion. He is as passionate about family as he is about mercy, to which he had this past year dedicated in the Church. Let us each pray this Prayer to the Holy Family from Christmas Day on, and with our families best of all.
For many people Christmas is a time when pain, loss and loneliness are all the sharper. Often home and family do not live up to our longing, or only do so very imperfectly. We all know this. We are made of such fragile and delicate stuff : is that why He came amongst us as a tiny baby? And in extreme poverty?
Family nevertheless is central to God’s design, and imaged in our deep hearts’ core. ‘It is not good for the human person to be alone’. Family is necessary. That’s the story of Christmas, God’s story from the beginning, and ours.
Isn’t it because of this deep need for the communion of family that the gift-giving, the greetings and the good wishes pre-occupy our preparations? Even if we go overboard, and the commercial takes too much space, somewhere the best of us is being played out too at the prompting of Christmas.
In a world still plagued by violence and unwelcome, by unspeakable terror and inhumanity, Christmas will not let us forget the goodness that is in us, and rekindles every year the warm flames of care and love that makes us our best selves, and calls us to be family. To be human is to be good. In the Creation story, after he had created man and woman, God looked and saw that what he had created was not just ‘good’, like the rest of his creation, but ‘very good’.
Jesus was born lest we forget that fundamental goodness that is in us. He is Emmanuel, God-with-us. In human flesh and blood like us.
God is born to us in the little Child in the manger…and by extension in every child and person consigned in our 21st Century to the outhouse of life. But he is born too every time we choose generosity and welcome, eschewing fear, sharing what we have, and trusting in the future precisely because it is in God’s hands, he who is our merciful Father.
As we pray then for all who are suffering and unable to really celebrate Christmas, we also give thanks to God for the wondrous generosity and self-giving that marks this time: together these two realities make Christmas, in the light of Jesus born for us on Calvary as at Bethlehem, a sacred season. And praying together, even if separated, we are family. Family of God.
Nollaig mhaith go raibh agaibh ar fad.
Bishop of Achonry