A Happy and Holy Christmas to all who may read this blog

  A Modern Nativity Scene  

The Christmas Story conjures up such a scene of domestic love, with Joseph, Mary and the new born baby – a scene that is quite ‘ordinary’ in one sense – and so it is, but at the same time, ‘mind-bogglingly’ amazing to think that here is pictured the ‘dawn’ of our ‘redemption’. Of course, in reality, it must have been a pretty difficult time for them, and therefore, reflecting on the two main protagonists, Joseph and Mary, the love they had for each other must have been very strong. They had gone through so much – so many problems – before arriving at Bethlehem; both knew that what was happening to them was in the hands of God, whom they loved and obeyed, but there were massive problems involving close families and the rest of the small community in Nazareth over Mary’s ‘unexplained’ pregnancy.  But, they trusted in God, for He had arranged the whole adventure, and it would not be too fanciful to expect them to be alert to the prophecy, in the Prophet Micah, about Bethlehem:

 “But you (Bethlehem) Ephrathah, the least of the clans of Judah, from you will come for me a future ruler of Israel whose origins go back to the distant past”. 

It is possible, even within serious difficulties, to remain trusting, loving and even cheerful. I know a fairly young parishioner, who is seriously ill with cancer, and the weaker and more debilitated he becomes, so his spirit seems the stronger. He puts this down to the power of God, not really being able to explain it.  In fact, there may be no other reasonable explanation. 

To wish somebody a ‘Holy Christmas’ must mean that God is involved. Recently, I met another young man who is not sure of God’s existence, largely because he feels that God is ‘remote’. What a pity that so many do not know God as their close friend – a friend who intervenes, and helps us in the detail of our lives! Such is the invitation we have from God, if we make a choice to believe in Him, and to do His will. The ‘Good News’ is that, if we sometimes fail and fall, not following his will, God can reconcile us to Himself when we turn back to Him; trust me, the good that comes out of that experience, can be stronger than the evil that we fell into, when we turned away from Him. How foolish it is that Christians do not take advantage of their faults, failures and weaknesses – the ‘sludge in the heart’ – by turning their faces back once more to God and crying: ‘Help’! ‘Mercy’ would have nothing to do, if there were not those who keep ‘Mercy’ working in answer to their own weaknesses. God is all Love and Mercy, and he cannot let us experience Him as a close friend, if we think we don’t need Him when, in fact, we all do. This is the positive side of a negative experience; the worst thing possible – the unthinkable – happening to me, is not ill-health, but the loss of my relationship with God, and that means, by sinning, to turn away from Him; forgiveness is the key that opens up that intimate relationship with God, once more. All this is written in the Scriptures, and the ‘Benedictus’ puts it this way: 

“You (John the Baptist) shall go ahead of the Lord to prepare his ways before him, to make known to his people their salvation through forgiveness of all their sins.” 

Knowing Jesus is our salvation. ‘Knowing a person” means not just intellectual knowledge, but is so much more concerned with our very human instincts, our innermost feelings – our whole being. According to the Scripture, we know the person of God through the forgiveness of our sins. This is why a person once said to me, that after celebrating Reconciliation, they felt they ‘floated’ as they walked home. Please be assured, there is nothing remote about this; it is something intrinsically personal and essentially intimate. 

A text received from a priest friend in Dublin, as these words are written, says: 

“I wish you and the family joy: the joy of looking forward to meeting old friends; the joy of being with people who love you and care for you and whom you love and care about; the joy of realising that there is a God who believes in you and who cares about you, and who loves you very much! Have a pleasant and happy Christmas. 

This text almost completes the ‘circle’ of this blog, for it brings us back to the homely love of family, with the Holy Family as our model.  However, there is one further connected thought that I wish to put to you and this concerns our Holy Father, the Pope. 



A Christmas Card from the Vatican

Finally, in wishing everyone a Happy Christmas, it is worth knowing that Pope Benedict will be doing “Thought For The Day”, at 7.45 am, on Radio 4, during the “Today programme” – the first time a Pope has ever done this. The Christmas card above has come from the Vatican, and so I share it with everyone. It shows the Holy Family and seems to point to the Holiness of God, by means of the reverence in the postures of Mary and Joseph, the person holding the Cross of St. George, St. Dominic with his sign in Latin that says: “Fear God whose hour is coming” as he sees the devil over his shoulder, the shepherds, and even the angels in heaven. Pictured here is the origin of our Redemption and God is very close. God bless us all at Christmas!