As we approach the end of 2010 Ireland is a dark place. Very many people are fearful, anxious, worried and very concerned about their jobs, their homes and their children’s future.
The message of Christmas is a message of hope but it must be painful even to hear or speak the word ‘hope’ for people who feel stressed, disillusioned and possibly on the verge of despair. For people in that situation hoping for better things must look like wishful thinking.
But we must not despair. We must not give up. We must not cease to hope. We cannot live without hope.
Hope is central to our Christian faith and to our celebration of Christmas. The message of Christmas is the message of the angels to the shepherds: “Do not be afraid; for see I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day…a Saviour… and they shall name him “Emmanuel”, which means, ‘God is with us’”.
“God is with us”. That is the source of our hope. Christian hope is not a naïve and facile belief that everything will be better next year. Christian hope is the conviction that God is with us and will give us the strength and the courage to cope with whatever life throws at us next year. Christian hope is the conviction that God who raised Jesus from the dead has the power to bring light from darkness and life from death and therefore good will triumph in the end.
But we cannot sit back and wait for this to happen. We must play our part. And God has shown us through the deeds and words of Jesus what we have to do. Jesus is the true light that enlightens everyone. Jesus shows us how to be truly human and how to build a more human and compassionate world. His formula is very simple but very challenging: love God and prove it by loving your neighbour: love, respect, compassion, justice, solidarity, mutual assistance are the tools for building a better world and a better Ireland.
We have all sent Christmas cards with the words “peace of earth” and “good will to all”. As individuals, families and communities let us all begin this Christmas to translate these sentiments into actions. If we do, Ireland will be a brighter place when Christmas comes around next year.
And let us not forget that as Christians we are people of hope. Let us speak and act like people of hope. I appeal to adults, especially parents, to speak to your children and in front of your children as people of hope and not in negative and pessimistic terms. The greatest gift you can give your children this Christmas is hope. Help them to be people of hope.
In this spirit of hope, I wish you all a joyful and blessed Christmas.
Bishop Bill Murphy