The road to Bethlehem was a rocky one for Mary and Joseph. The news of her pregnancy came as a surprise to both of them. Then Herod intervenes and causes them to leave home and go to Bethlehem to fill up a census form. Her labour pains came before she arrived at her accommodation and her baby was born in a stable, only to be quickly surrounded by shepherds and angels. You could be forgiven for wondering why God did not plan the birth of his Son better. And of course the fact is that God did what he did to make the point that Jesus is just like us. So often all our plans for a calm, stress free life, with support all around us from family and friends and not a shadow of difficulty, never materialise. Illness crosses our path, Covid-19 enters our world, job insecurity raises its ugly head and restrictions mean that we cannot plan for the holiday we hoped for or the wedding reception we dreamed of or, most importantly, the consolation of an Irish funeral.
The pregnancy, Herod and the journey brought Mary and Joseph, together with Jesus, into the world of uncertainty that we experience and live in. But on the other hand, angels brought them comfort, shepherds brought them joy, the Magi brought him recognition and the final angel brought protection, as they left by night for Egypt. And God is saying to us this Christmas, through all the uncertainty of our lives and, in particular, of this pandemic, you’ll get through it and come out at the other end. Jesus is the reason for this season and the bottom line of his message through the ages is; ‘I have conquered sin and death to reach the Resurrection and eternal life; so will you. Hope is my message’. What more could we want from Christmas 2021?
In these days before Christmas, I want to offer my sympathy to all who have lost family members or friends in the past year, and who couldn’t mark their passing as they would have wanted to. I take this opportunity to say a word of thanks to our priests and to all the parish volunteers who have given so generously of their time to keep us safe and allow us to worship. I wish you and your families every blessing for Christmas and the coming year.
A happy and blessed Christmas to everyone.
+ John Fleming
Bishop of Killala
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