Christmas Message 2020
Bishop William Crean
We are looking forward to a meaningful Christmas. We have together been preparing to celebrate Christmas, knowing that it is going to be different because of Covid 19. We are strangely guarding against the risk that being together may be for one another. We feel the tension of staying apart while being together.
The first Christmas is still our inspiration and the reason for our celebration. And we have so much to celebrate. Light drowns out the darkness. Joy displaces sadness. Hope drives out despair. Our welcome opens our hearts to the stranger. Our belief in one another reminds us of our shared home, that is, the Earth, and our shared humanity, regardless of creed or colour. It is the infant Jesus and the crucified Christ who has gifted us this wonderful understanding of our life and our world. This way of seeing moves us deeply. It reawakens our appreciation of the goodness we experience in family and friendship. Normally this is the great joy and exhilaration of the Christmas time together.
Thankfully we can gather to celebrate, but in very limited numbers. It is disappointing to have these limitations yet they are sacrifices we need to make for one another in our family and for other families, whose very livelihoods are put at risk by the spread of the virus. We have done well so far to find the balance so that work and schools can function. However, we still have a long road to travel, our patience, resilience and sacrifice will need to go on.
So, while we live with restrictions, we are grateful to be able to gather and connect with those closest to us. While our gathering is precious it is not without its dangers for some families. The “lockdown experience” has revealed stresses. While we love each others company we can easily get on each other’s nerves. For some, this leads to a small ‘tiff’ of some kind, for others it can lead to domestic violence. This can make our time together a nightmare for some families. Great patience with each other is needed this Christmas. The best way to do this is to try to think always of how things are for others. Frustration and anxiety really builds up if we are not thoughtful.
Think too over these days, of families who are bereaved, grieving a loved one because of Covid or some other cause. Think of all who have made so many sacrifices to ensure that we are served and cared for safely. Light a candle in their memory, do it with a quiet thought or prayer of gratitude for their goodness and being part of your life. Let it burn brightly at your table, so while few in number are gathered, so many others are with you in thought and spirit.
The experience of Covid 19 since mid-March has jolted all our lives. No one is untouched by it. A kind of darkness hangs over the world. It has shown us how much we have taken for granted. Even the strong and mighty can seem like candles in the wind. Thank God for the vaccines which give a chink of light and hope for a return to greater safety in 2021.
Surely, one of the most memorable moments of hope and encouragement came through Pope Francis when he stood alone in St. Peter’s Square in the sleeting rain to give his blessing to the city and to the world “Urbi et Orbi”. The silence was eery but eloquent. It spoke to our hearts of the need for courage and hope through the Presence of the Lord.
On Christmas Day Mass we hear from St. John’s Gospel “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us”. That is the joy and hope of these days. I hope you experience and savour that Joy and Hope over these blessed days.
So I extend my blessing and good wishes to all. May we continue to be blessed with the courage, resilience and kindness to bring one another through the challenge of these days.
May the New Year lift our hearts to make a new beginning.