18th December 2007
Joint Christmas message from Bishop Joseph Duffy, Catholic Bishop of Clogher and Bishop Michael Jackson, Church of Ireland Bishop of Clogher
“When the time came …”
How often have we heard people say this as they look back over something about which they are reminiscing or when they are taking stock of what has happened? The thing they’re talking about might have gone well or not so well, but very often the story begins with this phrase: “When the time came …”
Another Christmas gives us the opportunity to look back over what has happened and at the same time to look into the future and what might yet happen. At Christmas the Christmas story itself is our starting point. When the time came, God entered the world where those who might have been expected to know him did not accept him. Those who did receive him became children of God in a new and different way. When the time came, Joseph and Mary went to Bethlehem to register in a census of the Roman Empire. When the time came, the child was born and acknowledged as the Son of God by shepherds and kings alike. And again, when the time came, the parents and the child fled to Egypt because it was no longer safe for any of them to be in Bethlehem. At every point in this story when the time came, a decision is made and something new happens. God comes to earth. Those who hear the story become part of it and are reacting all the time to the fact that God is present in a new way. In this way the story becomes our history.
Today the Christmas story is told in a world of spiritual erosion. There is great anxiety about a loss of the sacred, about a slow drift into emptiness where life may be relatively painless and comfortable but ultimately without meaning. It is a world which has not learned the terrible lessons of war, where national and international leaders continue to ignore massive poverty and the exploitation of millions of people. It is a world where voluntary effort looks like nothing more than the ripples left after a stone has fallen to the bed of the sea. Locally we live in a world where we all need to take greater care on the roads. We need a responsible use of alcohol at all times and particularly over the Christmas period.
And let us remember in a way that is hope-filled, that when the time came, the Child of Bethlehem championed the faithful individual person. His sense of justice and compassion combined teaches us a new way of knowing and loving our neighbour. The challenge of Christmas 2007 is to follow in this way and to do these things when the time comes.
Martin Long Director of Communications (086 172 7678)
Kathy Tynan Communications Officer (086 817 5674)