The festive season heralds a new time, a time of reunion and gathering, a time of celebration, where we give thanks for all the good things that we have in life…

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Fr Paddy Byrne has a weekly column in the Carlow Nationalist.
This column appeared on 17 December 2008

“Christmas time, mistletoe and wine, children singing Christian Rhyme, with logs on the fire and bells on the trees, a time to rejoice in the good that we see”. The festive season heralds a new time, a time of reunion and gathering, a time of celebration, where we give thanks for all the good things that we have in life, family, children, friendships, neighbours and all our loved ones.

Christmas is a time where gifts are given and received. A time when the giver of all gifts Jesus Christ offers us a real opportunity to receive his presence in the depth of all our hearts.
Christmas connects us to the familiar and affords us hopefully to take a winter rest in
the warmth and light from where we belong.

Christmas evokes thanksgiving; the birth of Jesus as a vulnerable child to a wounded and broken world, gifts us with hope. God becoming flesh brings us to an intimate union of love, forgiveness, healing and peace. The winter child is much more than a symbol or a metaphor, but rather a living reality that yearns to be born anew in all our lives. In a growing secular world the voice of the child Jesus seems to be lost or at best a silent whisper. The glitzy and crowded shopping centre, extravagant spending , often at great personal cost, and our general over emphasis on the material; often leaves little room for the spiritual gifts that are so generously bestowed as a consequence of Christ’s birth.

How many children in our community will not be reminded of the Christmas Story or brought to Church this Christmas? How many adults will be caught in the material and social context of Christmas and forget all together about the spiritual? So many people in our community find this time of year difficult, and dread the festive season. The bereaved and the lonely; the depressed or sick among us, the unemployed, addict or refugee can find this time of year most difficult. Christmas has been transformed from simple origins to a present day complexity of issues that leaves so many people in our parish dreading or perhaps blindly missing out on a wonderful personal gift of peace and hope.

The birth of Jesus is nothing to be afraid of, nor is it something that we should dread.
The fact that God became one of us “Emmanuel” is worthy of celebration in all our lives. Jesus ignites and breaths new life into a society and culture that finds itself poor in faith. “I have come, so that you may have life and have it to the full”.

This Christmas, may we give birth to Jesus in all our hearts. Let’s not be afraid to celebrate and pray that Jesus will come alive in all our hearts.

May the baby Jesus, whose simple story offers hope and peace to a complex modern world, bless and heal each one of us.

“My peace I give you, a peace that this world cannot give”.