COVID has impacted on all aspects of life, on every family and on Christmas also, Bishop Tom Deenihan, Bishop of Meath, said in his Christmas message.
Last Christmas was an unwelcome interruption in the traditional Christmas cycle. Social distance, tickets for Mass, the fear of contracting or passing the virus and a post-Christmas surge in infection made that ghost of Christmas past a painful tormentor.
Last week, we learnt that due to Omicron, the traditional Christmas whose return we all longed for, would not be coming this year either. The last week has dampened moods, instilled fear once again and threatens the Christmas we expected. It could be a gloomy picture, but in the midst of all that, it is important to remember what Christmas commemorates.
Christ was born in a stable, not by choice but of necessity. He was born at a time of political difficulty, during a census ordered by the Roman occupiers. There was no comfort or prosperity. The birth on one level made no difference, on another level another mouth to feed. But the Christmas story, our faith in Christ and the Carols that we are familiar with tell of another perspective.
A star shone, angels sang and to those who were gifted with recognition, there was a sense of joy and hope.
In the midst of that dark night, God had somehow intervened. There was joy and hope that God was fulfilling his promise, that He had not forgotten his people and that the salvation that we all long for was on its way. Circumstances, be they social, personal, economic or political, are unable to dampen the joy and hope of that night in a Bethlehem stable that we commemorate once again this year.
May our Christmas this year also bring us that sense of joy, hope and the confidence that comes from faith in God’s nearness, compassion and care. That is the cause of our Christmas joy. The traditional Irish celebration of Christmas centered around the Christmas Candle, a light to beckon the Holy Family to shelter.
There is, I think, a need for all of us to believe once again in the nearness of God, the fruit of that first Christmas. We are not left alone, we are not abandoned but we are known and loved by God.
May your Christmas be holy and joyful and may the new year bring hope, happiness, a renewal of friendships and social contacts and, above all, may the Jesus bless you and your household this Christmas.