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Bishop’s Christmas message

As we approach Christmas 2016 should we content ourselves with the attitude that it is just the same as every other Christmas we have celebrated? It is true that the story does not change nor do the characters vary, but our own experience of the story and our empathy with its characters should change. Each year the circumstances of life, our relationships with others, our lived experiences do move on, sometimes with major consequences for ourselves, sometimes in a quieter more peaceful way. Whatever has happened therefore probably does affect how we celebrate Christmas, especially if we are missing somebody from our family whom we loved and cherished. Our openness towards the mystery of God’s love for the world and our personal awareness of the presence of Jesus, the Child in a manger, yet Our Lord and Saviour, hopefully do grow as we reach out to Him for consolation and enlightenment.

Let us thank God for the stability of the Christmas story, provided for us by the Holy Spirit in the words of the evangelists, and for the continuing knowledge and sense of his presence in our own lives. The mystery of the Incarnation has come alive in each of us and with shepherds and wise men we bow in deep gratitude as we adore and contemplate the Word made Flesh and thank him for the Gift of Himself. May what we share through giving and receiving gifts remind us of the GREAT GIFT and may he help us to show our love for him in our renewed love for one another.

During Advent, a sentence we read from St Paul’s Letter to the Romans caught my attention. It said:

“Everything that was written long ago was meant to teach us something about hope from
the examples scripture gives of how people who did not give were helped by God”.

Each Christmas renews within us this virtue of hope and reading again the beauti-ful passages written by the prophets and evangelists we are once more inspired to keep going in the way of faith, hope and charity because God is truly with us and protects us and carries us along each moment of life’s journey.

I wish you all a Happy and Blessed Christmas and a hope-filled journey through 2017.

+ Joseph Toal
Bishop of Motherwell