Bishop Ray’s Christmas Message 23

Come let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,

that he may teach us his ways

so that we may walk in his paths;

let us walk in the light of the Lord.   Is 2:1-5

Dia dhiabh. Nollaig Shona dhiabh.  Christmas is a season of encouragement and hope. God, Creator and Lord of all creation, truly loves his creation. In Jesus God choose to be with us and to care for us, and to give hope to the whole human family.

Christmas is a time to count our blessings and rejoice. I call to mind and give thanks for all that is good in all the communities and parishes of our diocese. Thank you to our clergy and religious and all in our parishes. Thank you to all our school communities. Thank you to all the voluntary groups: in sport, in the arts and in social care. There are so many wonderful things happening everywhere. Through local media, radio, print and online reporting, again and again we realize the wonderful number of voluntary bodies present in our communities. Long may it continue. Sincere thanks to all the volunteers involved.

“Mary treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart” is a key sentence in the Gospel. It refers to Mary’s reaction to all the significant moments in Jesus’ life. Through the days of Christmas let us treasure and ponder the birth of Jesus, the new-born child in the manger.  He is God, God who loves us, and God who has come to be with us always.

This year the cathedral crib in Killarney has brand-new scenery replacing the wooden stable that had come to the end of its lifespan. The ‘freshness of the new’ has caused many to see new aspects of that night in Bethlehem. May children especially love our new crib.

  • The crib scene has many people: shepherds, kings, a woman at the village well, and of course Mary and Joseph. How deep was the faith of each that first Christmas night? How did they understand the excitement at the birth of Jesus?  Did they live to hear him preach when he began his public ministry? We, the people who will stand and gaze at the new cathedral crib, what of our faith, – our faith in Jesus Christ who is ‘with us always’?
  • Each year the crib scene speaks to what is happening in the world around us. The prophet Isaiah spoke of a ‘Son being born for us’ who would be ‘Mighty God and Prince of Peace’. Every day of Christmas let us each pray to Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, to bring peace where there is war, – the Ukraine, Israel-Palestine, Sudan and sadly so many other places.
  • Far from home for the census, Jesus was born to Mary and Joseph in a stable. He was born without any of the facilities of home, not even neighbours to help out! If that simplicity and poverty was the lot of the Holy Family as Jesus entered the world, surely we, his disciples, ought to have a simple Christmas, the basics with no excess or extravagance?
  • All his life Jesus lived for others, again and again he reached out to help and share with people in need. I firmly believe that what we give to the various charities who seek funds at Christmas time is money well spent. Give to charities, especially to Saint Vincent de Paul who do so much good work throughout the diocese. There are so many among us who through some misfortune or other find themselves in need this Christmas. Let us open our hearts to them, ‘In giving we receive’.
  • The Holy Family on Christmas night was far from home and without a bed. Then, out of fear of King Herod, they fled to Egypt where they remained until Herod died. The situation is not that different for the refugees and migrants and the Ukrainians fleeing war who are with us in Ireland this Christmas. As a people, as individuals, let us welcome them, and  let us do what we can to support them.

Put the crib scene, the birth of Jesus, at the centre of your Christmas. Let it remind you of how God ‘so loves the world’, and that all of us have so much to be grateful for. May God’s goodness to us inspire our goodness to others.

Le gach dea-ghuí, í gcomhair na Nollag.

Every Christmas blessing on all in our communities.

Give Christ joyful welcome, love him and revere;

cherish one another with a love sincere.

Our Lady, Queen of Peace, pray for the whole world.

+ Ray Browne   

Diocese of Kerry 

Christmas 2023