When we wished you a Happy Christmas this time last year and all of us were looking forward to that season and the New Year that would follow, we could never have imagined what this year would bring, and that our planning for this Christmas would be so different.
Our thoughts and prayers, together with our practical ministry, have been focussed almost entirely since last March on the human toll that the CoronaVirus has taken. Most especially we think of those who have died, those who have been bereaved, those who have journeyed through, not only Covid-19, but other illnesses during this time of the pandemic, people living in nursing homes or with additional needs, and everyone who has been caring for you in those life-changing situations. ‘Everyone is in a heap’ said someone recently, and that is true. The disruption in our homes, in our commercial and business life, in the economy has been immense, and all of it is worked out in the lives of individuals stretched to the limit.
Meanwhile, none of the other big issues of the day has gone away: climate change, homelessness, direct provision, poverty, injustice, inequality, and the search for peace where there is conflict.
Yet, the message of the Christian Gospel proclaimed every day and most dramatically at Christmas time, remains the same. Our prayer is that it will give you hope and courage again this year in these far from normal times. In his Gospel, Saint Matthew tells us that the baby born in the manger would be named ‘Emmanuel, which means God is with us.’ This is at the heart of the Christian message, that God, the God of love, of grace, of healing, of salvation, is indeed with us.
Saint John described Jesus in a way that we can understand: as light in darkness. Speaking about Jesus Christ he said ‘in him was life, and the life of the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.’ As you light candles, switch on the decoration lights on trees or at home, as you see the lights decorating our villages, towns and city, we invite you to remember this promise and Good News. Our prayer is that Jesus, the light in the darkness, will give you joy, hope and assurance as we celebrate Christmas 2020 and set out towards 2021.
The Most Reverend Dr Fintan Gavin and the Right Reverend Dr Paul Colton