The following is the Joint Christmas Message for 2017 from Bishop John McDowell, Church of Ireland Bishop of Clogher, and Monsignor Joseph McGuinness, Diocesan Administrator of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Clogher.
Although it is children who are often the centre of attention at Christmas time, this season brings its blessings in many ways to us all. For families it is a time of togetherness, when extra effort is made to be at home and to renew the bonds of love and support. For those of Christian faith it is a time of rediscovery of the joy of the gift of salvation first made manifest in the Child of Bethlehem. Older people may well find this a time of reminiscence and nostalgia, looking back to simpler and less pressured times, such as those captured in Patrick Kavanagh’s A Christmas Childhood:
“My father played the melodeon,
My mother milked the cows,
And I had a prayer like a white rose,
Pinned on the Virgin Mary’s blouse.”
Memories such as these may seem all the more golden in this present time, when many are facing a future of economic uncertainty in which simpler living and lower expectations may be a matter of necessity rather than nostalgia. And we are all conscious of global threats of political instability, ecological degradation and the prevalence of violent upheaval. We live, no doubt, in a complicated world.
The Christmas story, however, reflects to us a picture of simplicity – no trimmings, no expense, no room at the inn. And yet in that very simplicity, the coming of the child Jesus into the world is an event of unparalleled beauty, profound meaning and deepest joy – a still point in a world even then in turmoil, a moment of deep peace in a world which was itself given to cruelty and violence.
For ourselves, reflecting on the birth of Christ should be a source of joy and a wellspring of peace. Like the people that walked in darkness, we too should see light and find hope. Easy to say, less easy to be convinced. But Christmas, of all times, should be a time when it’s easier to see what riches we really possess, what are the gifts that really matter, what blessings we have that really count: the love of family and the haven of home, the bonds of friendship, the opening of hearts and hands to so many who would envy what we possess.
Our prayer is that all of us may share this Christmas time in the simple joy and peace of being together as families, as friends, and as a community which shares so much more that unites than divides. We wish you all this blessing.
+John McDowell, Mgr Joseph McGuinness