Christmas is about 'birth of hope'
Christmas for some is a time to reconnect – however fleetingly – with the Christian faith they once espoused, but about which they have become casual or careless, according to the new Church of Ireland primate, Archbishop Richard Clarke, in his first Christmas message.
He said this was “never to be sneered at, or despised”: when people stopped connecting with their religious faith they might easily start to lose faith in themselves, and hence in those around them, and so “become angry, embittered and fearful”.
There was at Christmas “an eternal reminder that we are loved for ourselves, and that every other human person is loved equally by God.”
In his message, Moderator of the Presbyterian Church Rev Dr Roy Patton asked people to “think about those approaching this Christmas with little or no hope”.
Hope seemed in short supply, he said, but it was no different when Jesus was born. “The story of Christmas is of hope being born into a hopeless world. The God who made us and who knows us did not give up, walk out and leave us. In Jesus Christ, he came and made his home among us.”
Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin Michael Jackson recalled that “the first Christmas began in hastily improvised circumstances on the edge of a little town. Those who met God and greeted God were in so many ways outsiders to the social hierarchies and privileges of their day”.
“It is always the challenge of the Gospel to the disciples of this same God incarnate to embrace those who are today’s outsiders, whatever their circumstances.”
A time of need
In a joint message, Catholic Bishop of Cork John Buckley and Church of Ireland Bishop of Cork Paul Colton said this was a time of extraordinary need in our country and local communities. They said “the meaning of Christmas, which is both comforting and challenging, can all too easily be lost in a seasonal world of pantomime, party, decorations and festivity”.
The first Christmas “altered the course of human history and has been a force for change in society, as well as in the lives of people, in every age and place”, they said. They invited all people of faith to mark out this Christmas “by reaching out with friendship and practical support to our neighbours of all religious outlooks”.
Catholic Bishop of Clogher Liam McDaid and Church of Ireland Bishop of Clogher John McDowell, in their joint message, advised people to “leave aside the cards, the presents and the extras for a few days and instead talk and listen to the one whose birth we are planning to celebrate”.