Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
May I wish you all a joyful Christmas and a good New Year. May I also thank you each and all for your faith and ﬁdelity. I would like also to thank especially all those who help the Church voluntarily in her mission here, in ways great and small. There are so many of you and we are all in your debt.
We all want to access the ‘real’ Christmas: the grace of Christmas, let’s say. The Christmas of Mary and Joseph. The Christmas of the poor in spirit. Christ‘s Christmas. Thanks to our faith, thanks to the sacraments and liturgy of the Church and through the kindness we show each other, we can. We can meet the Christ who, unfailingly, year after year, comes to meet us.
‘For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given’. A child is laid in a manger, and ‘the Word was made flesh and lived among us.’ This is God’s great free download. Can there be any greater endorsement of our humanity, our life than this ‘? Any greater ‘yes’ to who and what we are? In the person of his Son God has taken us on, body and soul, taken us into himself. This affects everyone of us, everyone we pass in the street. Every child in the womb, every baby, every youngster, every father, every mother, everyone able, everyone disabled, everyone healthy, everyone dying. Everyone for ever. The heavenly Father wants us. He cherishes our human-ness. He wants us to be with himself: a daughter or son who is part of his own beloved Son, ‘one of the family’, for ever.
This is the Christmas open to all, ‘come down from heaven’, and which we access by baptism and faith: in response, one by one, moved by the Spirit, ‘giving up everything that doesn’t lead to God’. This is the Christmas we live out as disciples of Christ in the Church and in the world, however frightening it seems. This is the Christmas that can make even us an echo of Christ for others, a spark from his fire, his Body given for the life of the world.
Many centuries ago, a Syrian monk, St Ephrem, said this of Christmas night: ‘This night brought peace to the whole world: let no-one be angry or cruel. This night brought stillness and calm; let no-one threaten or disturb. This night belongs to the gentle One; let no-one be bitter or harsh. This night belongs to the meek One; let no-one be haughty or proud. . .This day is the day of rest; let no-one breaks its peace.’
So we have the courage to go into another year, whatever it brings. Thanks to Christmas, it needn’t be just ‘my year’. It can be a year of the Lord as well.
Yours devotedly in Christ,
Hugh Gilbert OSB
Bishop of Aberdeen