Bishop Francis Christmas Message 2019:
We are all familiar with the story of Christmas – the journey that Mary and Joseph embarked on, their expectancy and anticipation of the imminent arrival of the baby Jesus. But, as we celebrate Christmas 2019 in a world that is troubled and where so many people have to leave home because of war and persecution, we might reflect on the fact that at the very centre of the Christmas story were two people also seeking a welcome from strangers. Mary and Joseph were displaced and seeking accommodation at a vulnerable time in their lives. Their immediate concern was to find shelter and safety for the birth of their child. One man took pity on the couple and gave them shelter in a stable.
During our recent listening process, which took place as part of our preparations for next year’s Diocesan Assembly, the joys, anxieties and hopes that come with family life were very clearly expressed to me. Receiving help in our times of need is a concern that all families share. Pope Francis recently tweeted ‘The true worship of God is always expressed in love of one’s neighbour’.
So, this Christmas I would like to remember and pray for two groups of people: those in need of assistance and those who give assistance. Those who need assistance include all who are homeless, our own people and displaced people who come to our shores seeking refuge and the welcome of strangers. Those who give assistance include the many women and men who work with the emergency services who are there when needed, medical personnel, ambulance, fire brigade, Garda Síochána and a great number of volunteers and organisations who make all the difference. As we see the selfless assistance these people give, might we also be inspired to look out for each other through the coming year?
As we remember the birth of Jesus, our Saviour may we be inspired to carry the love of God and the hope of Christmas into the world. And may all of you, your family, and your friends have a wonderful and blessed Christmas.
Francis Duffy Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnois