CHRISTMAS MESSAGE 2004
MOST REV SEÁN BRADY
ARCHBISHOP OF ARMAGH AND PRIMATE OF ALL IRELAND
I simply love the ancient Christmas hymn which speaks of the infant Jesus as
“A blossom fair and bright,
That in the midst of winter will change to dawn our night”.
Christian tradition places the birth of Jesus in the midst of winter. It comes very soon after winter Solstice when the old sun is sinking ever lower in the sky and the old year is fading away in the long, dark, cold nights.
Our ancestors, in the Northern Hemisphere, took this dying away of the world in winter very seriously. They had no choice, I imagine, because they were not protected from its rigors by such things as instant light and heat, an abundance of food and drink, antibiotics and thermal fabrics. So they felt very keenly indeed the cold and the darkness, the hunger and the depression, the decreasing vitality and energy, and the silence.
The fact that the birth of Jesus followed closely on the death of the sun, enabled Christians to celebrate Jesus, the son of Mary, as the ‘New Sun’ shining on the world. This striking title, ‘New Sun’ with all its connotations of light, heat and energy, summed up all the gladness and gratitude and hope which they experienced in those anxious days at the end of December.
So, Christmas is a season of newness. A season that contains the seed of new beginnings and new hope and new possibilities. It is, of course, a festival of gladness and good cheer – of sentiment and nostalgia, being with the family. But it is much more. For essentially, Christmas is the great gift that comes hard on the heels of winter. Yet it is a sealed gift, a package that each one must open and deploy for herself. For if there is to be a fertile and fruitful spring, the seed-gift certainly must not remain unopened. It must be received and welcomed by each one of us.
On the outside we can read the address – ‘To you, my beloved disciple from the one who loves you’. If I look at the date marked thereon I will see, with some surprise, the date, perhaps, of my baptism or my confirmation or my marriage or my ordination, or religious profession. If I have the courage to open the gift I will find therein a short message from the lover – the Lord himself –
I am with you,
in every time and every place,
not only official times but every moment,
always seek me, never give up
and you will become my disciple in truth.
All of this may leave me scratching my head and wondering how can I further explore and nurture this inspiring declaration. As a minimum I reckon that it will involve:
Becoming familiar with the never-failing presence of Emmanuel – God with us.
Having the courage to check things with Him.
Looking at everything in my world through His eyes.
And treasuring, above all, a constant awareness of His power and love at work in my life.
May this Christmas become a joyful memory for you, for your family and for those with whom you share your life. May the wonders of Christ’s birth renew your sense of wonder in the gift of life itself and may the coming year be a time of hope fulfilled for you and yours. Our Saviour has come, have no more fear. He can change to dawn all our nights.