In this week’s blog, Fr. Paddy speaks of Hope during this time of Advent.

Fr. Paddy Byrne has a weekly column in the Nationalist papers.
This column appeared in the edition published 24 November 2010

FOR SO many, I’m sure, Christmas this year seems to be far from a time for hope.

As the cold winds of economic uncertainty continue to be felt, so too are the levels of fear and anxiety.

December brings with it the darkest time of the year.

This is a difficult month for many people; thousands of people in Carlow face Christmas in poverty.

Perhaps it’s not by accident that Advent points us in the direction of a Christ-child born into total poverty in a lowly stable.

Often issues that we may live with throughout the year are heightened as we get closer to Christmas.

Issues such as bereavements, family breakdown and separation, addiction, financial worries and unemployment can overwhelm and cause great pain and burden.

There is in the grey skies these days an atmosphere of worry and burden felt in the hearts of so many.

Economic collapse, massive unemployment, emigration, uncertainty – this may well be a time to feel grey and depressed.

Perhaps it makes sense in this time of winter darkness to focus on the light and hope that Christ wants to plant in all our hearts as we soon journey through the season of Advent.

We can never fully appreciate or embrace Christ in our hearts until we grow in our awareness of the places in our story that are wounded and longing to be healed. The prophet Isaiah spoke of a

“people who walked in darkness, have seen a great light”.

Hope is a wonderful gift that allows us to see beyond our present circumstance. Hope brings us to a place where we can be nourished and sustained.

Hope offers opportunity and exciting new possibilities; hope that is felt when we discover the joy and fulfillment in the good people we love most; hope that enables those who are uncertain because of illness or unemployment, to take one step, one day at a time; hope where we may be anxious or greatly burdened that intuitively we sense that we are greater than just this moment in time and that we belong to a greater good, felt in the depth of all our souls.

The great message of Jesus in the Gospels is his desire that we be set free from fear.

Hope is something that, as a Christian people, we believe comes from God.

Hope is greater than any recession.

There are no cutbacks when it comes to the love of God. God’s Kingdom is much greater than any institution, including our Church.

The light of God’s love will visit us where the darkness and shadows of fear and uncertainty may overwhelm us most.

Christ’s light is brighter than any winter darkness and his presence is as gentle as a candle that gives us enough light to take one step at a time, day by day.

May we grow in the light and hope that God wants to plant in our hearts.

Advent is a time to hope, a time to be expectant and confident that all will be well when we place our trust in God.