I hope you are well this Christmastime.
People ask me sometimes if we have lost the spirit of Christmas and say that it has become too commercialised, that we have lost its true meaning. There is truth in that. But, let us have a look at this from another angle. What do we see happening at Christmas time? We see families and friends getting together. People are buying gifts for each other, trying to do their best to get the right gifts, as funds will allow. People are thinking about others, giving more to charities like St. Vincent de Paul, Trocaire, Aid to the Church in Need, the Simon Community and so on. Families are making wonderful memories for children. People are trying to forgive and repair family hurts. This giving and sharing is good, very good, and it is all because of the birth of a baby in a stable in Bethlehem around two thousand and nineteen years ago. We are still celebrating His birth.
We all know that there are urgent problems, but I ask you to think back a year ago or 10 years ago, there were urgent problems then too. And yet, life goes on. If we think of eternal things we can see problems in their correct light. What the baby of Bethlehem is saying to us is, “I am with you”. All the goodness we share at Christmas time is a hint of the eternal. God’s plan is unfolding each day. He is saying to us, “I am not giving up on humanity. I am human like you, and I am with you always.”
No matter who you are, no matter what you are going through right now, good or bad, whatever problems you may have, try to look at the child in the crib. A baby will always be the focus of attention in any gathering. At this time of year the whole world is focused on the Child in the stable of Bethlehem, born of Mary, whose father is not Joseph but God Himself. Jesus is human and divine. Because He is human He knows our human struggles and because He is God He can do things we cannot do. He is saying to you and me, “I am with you”. He is not saying that everything will be perfect and rosy but that He wants to bring you peace. For that we need to trust Him. A prayer of St. Teresa of Avila sums this up:
“Let nothing disturb you, nothing frighten you, all things are passing, God is unchanging. Patience gains all; nothing is lacking to those who have God: God alone is sufficient.”
I pray that you will know the presence of Jesus and see hints of the eternal in the goodness around us.
To you, your family and friends I wish peace, joy and the closeness of the Child of Bethlehem. Amen,
Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan