Added on 19/12/2012
December 25th is near enough the darkest day of the year, so it’s tempting to see Christmas as a party to forget the harsh realities of life.
There is a lot of darkness around. The impact of the budget on some of the most vulnerable members of our community is going to make their lives even more of a struggle. Those who thought investing in a home was something that would bring security now find that negative equity has robbed them of all hope for the future. Then comes news from the United States, a massacre of the innocents, twenty children and six teachers, in Newtown, Connecticut.
In the midst of all this darkness the Christmas Gospel states “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it” (John 1.5).
The Christmas story points us to where hope can be found and where light is shining. That light is shining in the many carers for whom this Christmas day will be like any other day, caring for a loved one who needs their support. Light is shining among those who will spend their Christmas day with the homeless. It is shining in the work of doctors, nurses, and members of the emergency services who will be there to help us, if we need them. It will be there in the many community groups and organizations whose volunteers work tirelessly to improve the lives of others.
The list of people who care is endless. They are stars that light up the darkness. Their work often goes unnoticed, but they carry on caring.
In the next few days the trains and boats and planes will be full of people who have made a special effort not to miss out. Being home for Christmas is really special. It’s a time to be with family and friends. If we are fortunate enough to spend Christmas with children so much the better. Their joy, wonder and sheer excitement is infectious. We celebrate with those we love, because good relationships are among God’s greatest gifts to us and Christmas is a time to be thankful for the gift of those who love us.
However, the story that lies behind our Christmas celebration is not a family party. Far from it. The story is about Mary, a vulnerable young woman away from home with nowhere to stay, and about to give birth. Joseph is with her, but he can’t provide for Mary as he would wish. Mary and Joseph find themselves at the mercy of a very busy inn keeper. The inn is fully booked. The inn keeper is run off his feet. But he listens to the young couple, and he takes the time to do what he can. He offers Mary and Joseph shelter where the animals were usually kept. The innkeeper takes time to care. The little he offers is enough for God’s greatest gift to be offered to us all.
The Christmas story tells us that God is with us no matter what our circumstances may be. But God has linked our lives together in families and communities.
Each one of us can be a light in the darkness. No one person can do everything that is needed, but each one of us can make a difference.
It may be a phone call to someone who is away from home, visiting a neighbour who is alone, or responding to one of the many charities who make special appeals over Christmas.
So let’s follow the example of the inn keeper, let’s do the little we can, for those in need, because we care. That’s the spirit of Christmas. Have a joyful one!
The Rt Revd Trevor Williams, Church of Ireland Bishop of Limerick and Killaloe and Fr Tony Mullins, Diocesan Administrator, Diocese of Limerick
For further information please contact:
Canon Bob Hanna
Limerick & Killaloe Diocesan Communications Officer