Added on 24/12/2012
The story is told of a king who was wealthy beyond measure. At the same time, however, he sincerely strove to be rich spiritually as well. One night the king was wakened from sleep by a fearful noise on the roof above his bed. Alarmed, he shouted: ‘Who’s there?’ “A friend,” came the reply from the roof. “I’ve lost my horse.” Annoyed by such stupidity, the king shouted: “You fool! Are you looking for a horse on the roof of my royal palace?’ “You fool!” the voice from the roof answered. “Are you looking for God in silk clothing, and lying on a golden bed?”
When God came into our world he didn’t come in silk and gold. Christ was born in a manger. He came into the world as a helpless child, of poor parents, in a shed shared by animals. The first to find God on this earth, after Mary and Joseph, were the humble shepherds. When the Magi looked for Christ in the royal palace in Jerusalem they didn’t find him. They found him when they followed the star to the stable at Bethlehem.
Every Christmas Jesus puts the same question to each one of us: “Where are you looking for God? There are many things to help us in our search for God. We have cribs in our churches to make the Christmas story more real for us. We have carol services to tell the story in scripture and song. We celebrate the Eucharist to meet Christ in worship, prayer and sacrament. But all that is not enough if we fail to recognise Christ in the poor and the needy and the suffering of our world.
There’s a striking prayer which goes to the heart of what Christmas is about. It’s about God taking on our human flesh – what we call the Incarnation. In the prayer God says:
“I am not made of plaster, nor of stone, nor of bronze. I am living flesh throbbing, suffering. I am among men [and women] and they have not recognized Me. I am poorly paid, I am unemployed, I live in a slum. I am sick, I sleep under bridges, I am in prison. I am oppressed… And yet I said to them: ‘Whatever you do to My brothers [or sisters]… you do to Me.’ That’s clear! The terrible thing is that they know it, but don’t take it seriously.”
This Christmas let us try to take that seriously. We think of those who are struggling to make ends meet in these difficult times. We think of young people – and older people – who have no work. We think of those who have been forced to emigrate and the families who miss them. We think of the homeless. We think of the sick, the bereaved and the old. We think of those whose childhood was blighted by abuse. We think of those who are suffering from loneliness and depression. We think of individuals and families afflicted by abuse of drugs and alcohol. We think of all those and we remember that whatever we do for any of these, we do for Christ. We love because He first loved us. We serve because we have met Jesus the Saviour. We worship Him, the Servant King, the friend of sinners, born in humility and now reigning in glory.
May Christ, the Prince of Peace, bring peace to our hearts and homes and to our country this Christmas. May each one of us work to share that peace with others.
Bishop Leo O’Reilly, Bishop of Kilmore
Bishop Ken Clarke, Bishop of Kilmore Elphin and Ardagh.
P.S. Since this will be our last joint message for Christmas, I would like to take this opportunity to say farewell to Bishop Ken and his wife Helen as they leave Cavan and as he takes up his new missionary ministry. I thank Bishop Ken for his wonderful witness to Christ while he was among us as Bishop, and his inspiring words on many occasions over the last twelve years. I also thank him for his friendship and support as a colleague and for his unfailing courtesy and co–operation in the things we did together in ministry. I wish him every blessing, success and happiness in his new ministry as Mission Director of the South American Mission Society Ireland.