This Christmas marks the two hundredth anniversary of the first performance of that much loved festive hymn, Silent Night. The words were written by a young priest, Joseph Mohr and the melody was composed by his friend Franz Xavier Gruber. It was performed for the first time at Midnight Mass in Fr Mohr’s parish church in the Austrian village of Oberndorf. Appropriately enough, the church was called St Nicholas’s.

For the past two centuries this hymn which captures Christmas for so many has been performed all over the world, in many and varied circumstances. Most famously, it was sung by soldiers who left their trenches to greet each other in ‘no-man’s land’ at Christmas 1914.

We gather at another significant Christmas. As Brexit looms Ireland’s future seems uncertain. Many people of faith feel marginalised following the removal of the right to life for the unborn from our constitution and the hostility that greeted the visit of Pope Francis to Ireland last August.

This Christmas as we celebrate the birth of the ‘Holy Infant so tender and mild’ we are inspired to renew our commitment to the sacredness of vulnerable human life at its beginnings. Christmas reminds us that though we may feel that our back is to the wall, Christ invites us to leave our defensive trenches and to bring his message into ‘no-man’s land’, for ‘Christ the Saviour is born, Christ, the Saviour is born.’

Happy Christmas from all of us here at the Pastoral Centre!