Brothers and Sisters, as your bishop, my great longing is that Christ be real to us. Ever more real. Real, though physically unseen. Real to the eyes of faith. Real in this life and real for ever. As real, in our measure, as he became to Mary and Joseph, Peter and Paul, to the disciples on the road to Emmaus, to so many saints throughout the Christian centuries. He is not a figment of the imagination, he’s not an idea, not just a figure from the past. He is real and alive, here and now, contemporary, eternal. And he longs to be real for us. It is, of course, a life-long process, suffering and failure are part of it, but it’s what we’re made for.
Today, as it were, we fast forward. The child in the manger is suddenly an adult by the river. Instead of the arms of his mother, there’s the voice of the Father: “This is my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on him.” Instead of a birth, a baptism. Today John the Baptist’s mission comes to its climax and conclusion, and the prophetic baton, as it were, is passed to Jesus. He is anointed by the Holy Spirit and goes out to his life’s work, “doing good and curing all who had fallen into the power of the devil.”
My Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The coming of Christ brings us hope, and the Church exists to proclaim that hope to the world. There is hope because God does not abandon us to live with our imperfections and our failings – God is with us.
On the Solemnity of the Holy Family (Sunday 29 December 2019), Bishop Hugh Gilbert, OSB, dedicated and blessed the new sculpture of St. Magnus of Orkney at St. Mary’s Church, Huntly Street, Inverness. Belladrum artist and sculptor Leonie Gibbs was commissioned to make the piece following the 900th-anniversary celebration of St Magnus’ martyrdom in 2017.
An Inverness Solicitor, Bryan Longmore has been honoured with a Papal Knighthood from Pope Francis. The Investiture took place during the 11:00 Sunday Mass on 29th December at St. Mary’s Church, Huntly Street in Inverness with chief celebrant Bishop Hugh Gilbert, OSB.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
In the wake of Christmas I want to wish you all a good New Year.
At the next Easter Vigil, the number 2020 will be traced on the Paschal Candle. “All time belongs to him and all the ages”, says the celebrant. It’s a powerful gesture. We want the light of the Risen Christ to carry and fill our year. It’s powerful too that we keep Advent and celebrate Christmas before the new calendar year begins, and that New Year’s Day is first of all the feast of Mary’s Motherhood.
Brothers and Sisters, why has he done this? Why has God become a human being? Why has the Word become flesh and lived among us? Why has the radiant light of God’s glory and the perfect copy of his nature put his light under the bushel of human flesh, human nature? Why has the Son of the Father become the child of a woman called Mary, a baby with brittle fingers and tiny toes, something to warm and feed, to tickle and cuddle, to look at and smile at? Why have we been given God as our baby brother? This is Christmas. It’s a wonder. It’s meant to wow us. Every child we care about takes us out of ourselves. Every baby rescues us from selfishness. Every birth is astonishing. And this One still more.
Brothers and sisters, here we are. Here we are at Christmas, the real Christmas. Here we are, not just in Aberdeen, but somehow in Bethlehem. Here we are in the cave, the stable, the barn, or whatever it may have been. And the whole of creation is here with us: angels, stars, animals: “the ox knows its owner and the donkey its master’s crib” (Is 1:3). Abraham, Moses and David are here. The prophets, led by Isaiah – “for there is a child born to us, a son given to us” – and seconded by Micah: “But you (Bethlehem), Ephrathah, the least of the clans of Judah, from you will come for me a future
Today the 4th Advent candle has been lit. The Lord is close. There’s a sense of heaven and earth, the divine and the human, coming together. Dew and rain falling from above and the earth bringing forth. The Lord is entering his Temple and we are climbing the mountain to meet him. A maiden, a virgin, is with child, and he is called Emmanuel, God with us. The Lord is close.
The grace of Advent is hope. Advent can revive hope when it has been lost, refocus it when it has been misplaced. It puts our hopes in order, raising them to a higher level. Advent is about transforming our outlook and expectations. This is why Isaiah keeps talking to us, why John the Baptist keeps coming on stage, why apostles are so busy reminding us of the Lord’s coming.