St Anne's Church in Bailieborough all set for Christmas 2021. Photo: Kevin Gorman

Unwrap the gift of God’s love with joy this Christmas

Christmas message from the Bishops of Kilmore

- Bishop Martin Hayes & Bishop Ferran Glenfield -

As we prepare for Christmas 2021, we are still coping with the ongoing persistence of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is a testing time as we tentatively make plans to celebrate Christmas with family and friends in mind.

The story of Christmas is one of faith, hope, love, peace, and joy, which we celebrate with gifts of colourful seasonal packages.

Christmas comes in packages. Courier companies deliver packages to our doors. Some people book a hotel package for Christmas Day. Christmas parcels are wrapped in seasonal paper to be opened on the big day. Christmas comes in packages that celebrate “God’s love for us revealed when God sent into the world his only Son so that we could have life through him.” (1 John 4:9)

St Luke packages the first Christmas story for us in his Gospel. He wants us to see, first, the coming of God to the world he created. Christ came at the time when Caesar Augustus ruled much of the known world. But for Luke the Roman Empire was only the backdrop to Christ’s coming. Jesus, not Caesar was the main man.

Luke points to how God came to earth. He came in humility. Born to peasant parents in a rural backwater in Palestine. Born and nursed in a feeding trough in a bare stable. No pomp and circumstance in Luke’s story of the coming of Christ into the world.

Next, Luke highlights the announcement of Christ’s arrival. An angel is the herald. The news is good, the promised one is to be born in Bethlehem. He will deliver, for he comes as Saviour, what the world needs. He is for all, people then and people now, people like you and me.

Lastly, Luke sets before us the reaction to the coming of Jesus. Shepherds keeping watch over their flocks at night were the first to hear the news. Their response was immediate, they hurried down to Bethlehem, their clue was the feeding trough, just as the angel had said.

Mary’s response was more reflective; she pondered all these things in her heart. The wonder of it all. Mary, in her mothering of Jesus, has become our Mother. Joseph, the quiet foster father is our model of wisdom in being alert to the guidance of God through the angels prior to the Birth of Jesus and later when they had to flee to Egypt.

Jesus entered our world in being born in a stable at Bethlehem and in living the ordinary life of Nazareth. He remained living this life, subject to the care of His earthly parents as was highlighted in His finding in the Temple, which was also an indication of His calling to show us God’s love.

Luke’s package of the first Christmas story has been described as the most beautiful gift ever given. We ask you to take time to unwrap the gift of God’s love and to receive Jesus with great joy this Christmas.

We hope and pray that we will be able to celebrate Christmas in our homes and in our churches with family, friends and strangers. At Christmas we can deepen our appreciation of God’s love and of how Jesus came to show us that love, in being born as a little baby. The love of Jesus in living an ordinary life, in His Mission of preaching, healing, was complete in the ultimate giving of Himself on the Cross. Jesus in pouring out his life for us rose to new life and gained for us forgiveness of our sins. In so doing Jesus brings us into the family of God, sustaining us in this life as well as giving us the hope of eternal life.

Yes, at Christmas, we celebrate God’s love in the Birth of Jesus, through whom we have life. Let us share that love with those around us. This year has been difficult, and we need to spread the message of hope and love to those we can be with in-person or virtually this Christmas. In the midst of uncertainty, may we experience peace and joy in depending on that hope of life in Jesus Christ. May we be renewed this Christmas by the promise of life in Jesus Christ. May you have happy and blessed Christmas.