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Dear Friends,

As we prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ this year, our hearts are moved by the images of small children that we have seen over the past few months. The terrible tragedy of Israel and Gaza, the ongoing war in Ukraine and the persistent and life-destroying famine in East Africa, are all the more shocking when we see their impact on the lives of children. The terror of hunger, fear or maiming should be far from every child’s life and yet we see it daily in our media. It is right to reflect on these matters as we prepare to celebrate the birth of the baby who was God himself.

The world into which Jesus was born was as destructive to childhood as ours in many similar ways: hunger, homelessness, seeking and being refused refuge and being the victim of political leaders’ power struggles. There was no social media to carry the instant story and yet, the events of Bethlehem and Nazareth have echoed down the years, changing people’s hearts from stone to flesh, their lives from hatred to love. As we prepare for Christmas this year, let us pray that the telling of the Christmas story will give us a new impetus to leave aside hatred, jealousy, judgmental attitudes and allow us to see the life-changing effect of letting love in.

The Christmas story began with Mary and her acceptance of her place in God’s plan. Human, like the rest of us, she could not see all that it would entail of joy and sorrow, but at the moment of the Annunciation she was willing to let God’s love work through her. She was truly faithful in the sense that she trusted God and felt that great things could happen if she said yes. 

As we prepare to celebrate Christmas, the challenge given to us is much smaller but no less significant. Can we say yes over the holiday period to children, to the elderly and to the lonely or recently bereaved? Not just by giving material things but also by giving people our attention – the gift of noticing them and making them feel visible and loved in the world. 

Throughout his life, Jesus welcomed the outsider, the marginalized and assured them that being included was God’s plan for them. We will have plenty of opportunities to do this over Christmas and the year ahead. It is in small things, kind words, a welcoming smile, a helping hand that the Kingdom of God is found and our chance to build God’s Kingdom is when we take the opportunities to do that.

Throughout the Diocese, the year has been a busy one with many gatherings to plan and to ponder what God is calling us to in these years. These meetings have resulted in a great number of people offering to participate in training and planning for the future. It is truly a sign of God at work in our Diocese at this time and we should take great heart from it. 

We are at a time of great change in the church – as Pope Francis calls it, a change of era – but we can look forward with hope to God doing great things in all our lives. With that thought in our hearts and minds, let us see in Mary, God’s mother, a model for journeying in faith without knowing where the journey will take us.

I wish all who see this message the Hope and Joy of Christmas, the confidence to see that God is at work in every person and the courage to fearlessly bring about change in the time and place where we live.


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