Warmest Christmas Greetings to all our people in the diocese of Kilmore, here at home and all around the world. No more than yourselves, I am very fond of Christmas. I love the carols and the cards, the decorations and the crib, the packed church at the Christmas eve Mass, the sense of togetherness and good will there, and of course the family get-together and festive fare on Christmas day.
But for all that, I have to keep reminding myself of what exactly we remember at Christmas. It’s not a fairy tale or a fable. There’s a gritty realism about the Christmas story. When God came into the world, he chose to be born, not in luxury or plenty, but in poverty. Jesus began his life in a stable, not in the warmth of a human home.
The birth of Jesus in a stable is a powerful reminder that God identifies with the poor, the weak and the homeless. It’s an uncomfortable reminder for many of us, living as we do in a well-off society where so many people are actually homeless right now. It invites us to leave our comfort zones and reach out to those who are poor and weak and homeless in our world today.
Jesus said that when we reach out the hand of friendship to help those in need, it is the same as reaching out to him. “Whatever you did to the least of these brothers and sisters of mine you did to me.”
When Pope Francis visited Brother Kevin’s Centre for homeless people in Dublin during the World Meeting of Families in August, he said to the people who come there: “Do you know why you come here with trust? Because they help you without taking away your dignity. For them, each of you is Jesus Christ.”
As we celebrate Christmas this year, I hope that we will recognise Christ in each other and especially in those who are in need. I pray that our families will be places where there is real love for each other, where there is joy, and a welcome for all. I hope too that we will remember the many people who may not enjoy Christmas as we do, those who are poor, or sick, or homeless. As we look at the infant Jesus in the manger this year, let us learn to recognise Christ in the poor person, the sick person or the homeless person we meet, and treat them as we would treat him.
I wish you all wherever you are a very happy Christmas.