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Homily of Bishop William Crean – 4th Sunday of Advent (A)18th December 2022

4th Sunday of Advent (A)

Sacred Heart Church, Ballymore

18th December, 2022

“The Crib – a stroke of genius”

My friends,

The recent decision by the Lady Mayoress of Dublin to forego having a Crib with live animals in the Mansion House was an exercise of power that in a subtle way suggested the narrative of the Birth of Christ didn’t fit into her world view. She suggested that something more imaginative and entertaining would be in order. And anyway those animals were being exploited by having to stay there so long.

It is difficult to take seriously a public figure who is so shallow and disingenuous. The narrative of the birth of the Christ child in Bethlehem testifies to a historical fact which commerce and culture have enshrouded in tinsel and lights, turning it into a fairy tale and incredible myth. Those who start promoting Christmas sales in November are not interested in the truth that Christmas represents. This makes it harder for a new generation to appreciate the potential profound meaning of the birth in Bethlehem.

For us to value and celebrate the birth of Jesus we need to have hearts and minds open and accepting of the divine in human affairs, accepting of the Spirit of God at work in the world through people’s lives. It is a way of understanding and wisdom that best finds expression in signs and symbols. This symbolic language doesn’t spell out everything in a way we’d like, rather it gives us hints and glimpses of the mystery of the divine in our midst.

This in truth is the ‘eye of faith’ which enables us to be touched deeply within, animated and inspired to know that we are dealing with a reality greater than what the human eye can see and the ear can hear.

It was St. Francis of Assisi who fashioned the first Crib. It was a stroke of genius to create a practical representation of the great mystery of the divine/human meeting in the person of a baby, powerless and vulnerable, wrapped in swaddling clothes. The presence of the animals was itself a symbol that this event was not just about people, human persons, indeed about all of God’s creation.

It’s a pity the Lady Mayoress didn’t reflect a little more deeply about the significance of the Crib with live animals before opting for the transitory and frivolous instead of hosting a practical narrative, that is the Crib, which is of profound meaning both for humanity and all creation.

“Behold I will make all things new

A new heaven and a new earth”

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