Joint Christmas 2015 message from the Archbishops of Armagh, the Most Revd Richard Clarke and the Most Revd Eamon Martin
‘May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.’ Romans 15:13
Although we often wish people a happy Christmas and peaceful New Year, we very rarely use the word ‘hope’ or ‘hope-filled’ in relation to either. People now seem to find it difficult to feel real hope for the future, for the world, and even for themselves. Hope is indeed a rare commodity and people are sometimes cautious about wishing for too much hope, lest they be disappointed. In the world around us, with all the violence and destruction that we have seen in recent weeks and months, there seems to be little interest in any scenario of hope. Yet as Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Archbishop Desmond Tutu said, ‘Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.’ Pope Francis has also often said: ‘Do not allow yourselves to be robbed of hope’.
Hope is the opposite of despair and yet it is more than simply a desire for something better. Hope is a fundamental Christian quality, but it is never an individualistic thing. We should not wish simply for hope for ourselves, that things will turn out well for us or for those we like or love. Hope is something we are called to bring into the world in the name of Christ. If we are to be people of hope, we are also to be agents of hope. When we follow the call of Christ and seek to bring hope into the lives of others – material as well as spiritual hope – we then have grounds for real hope. What we do for others – in simple ways, or sometimes demanding ways – is sowing hope for the future. Around us in this country, there are those who can feel no hope for themselves or their families, whether through deprivation or because they are refugees from violence. We can become envoys of hope in the name of the Christ, who was born in a stable in Bethlehem. Just as he came into our world to bring hope into places of despair and light into the midst of darkness, so also can we become people of hope. Perhaps this year we can with sincerity wish others a hope-filled Christmas and New Year.
With every blessing,
Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Armagh