Joint Christmas 2008 message from the Bishops of Clogher

17 Dec 2008

17 December 2008

Joint Christmas 2008 message from the Bishops of Clogher

We come together again to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. As we give thanks for His presence among us, we realise that there is much to distract everyone from the joy that is proper to this holy season.  The current economic downturn, for example, means that this Christmas will be very different for most people.  Many have already lost their jobs in recent months, essential education and health services are in imminent danger, the vulnerable in our society are the most affected. The pressing need is to recover faith and hope in the future. 

Each of us has much to learn from  Mary and Joseph at the manger.  Undaunted by their exclusion from the inn, they were happy to allow God to guide them towards their unforeseen and unfamiliar destination, even before that  destination brought them the miracle of their new-born child.  When He arrived, we can be certain that He did not upgrade their material comforts or accommodation.  But the rich dividend was no less real for that; it was of a different and a higher order. It was the gift that enabled their humble lives, and the lives of all who have followed Him since, to face up to the trials of life, to make a positive contribution to their community.   

As for our own cross-border community, the present downturn inevitably adds to the isolation of this part of the world.  The outstanding questions need more attention than ever:

  • How are we coping with the aftermath of oppression and violence?
  • How are we generating across political and religious frontiers and fault-lines the mutual respect and trust that make for a cohesive community?

Two publications earlier this year pull no punches.  The first is Fostering Mutual Benefits in Cross-Border Areas, an in-depth analysis of funded project work over eight to fifteen years, encouraging basic cooperation and collaboration.  The second is entitled “Whatever you say, say nothing”, a report on the views and experiences of Border Protestants.  The over-all aim of this particular project is to encourage the development of a progressive and confident Protestant border community.  

In our still fragmented society the link between personal fulfilment and inclusive community is vital.  Both go hand in hand.  For Christians this means that the person at the heart of Christmas “the Word made Flesh” underpins any mission to build a flourishing community.  There can be no adequate source of hope in the future, as indeed there can be no understanding of human dignity, without religious roots.

The question has to be asked in today’s world why religious faith and hope matter: why they matter to us as individual people and as community members.  The answer to this question leads directly to Jesus Christ and His living influence in our world.  Jesus gave us the new commandment: Love one another, as I have loved you.  He wants us to be changed for the better, and He enables us to be changed, as the Wise Men were by their visit to the manger.

+Michael Jackson, Church of Ireland Bishop of Clogher
+Joseph Duffy, Catholic Bishop of Clogher

Further information:
Martin Long, Director of Communications (086 172 7678)
Brenda Drumm, Communications Officer (087 233 7797)