Dear Columban friends,
What will Christmas be like this year? This is the question that everyone is asking and I detect some disappointment, even fear, at the prospect of missing out on family gatherings, carol services and the chance to share Christmas joy with others. This will be felt particularly by people living alone or unable to travel home to their family. Our hopes and expectations for Christmas are being challenged and we are discomforted by the uncertainty, at a time of year that is normally, for most of us, a constant and familiar season we can rely on and look forward to.
As Christians, we know that while the way we celebrate Christmas may be different this year, the reason we celebrate remains steadfastly and reassuringly the same. God sent His Son to live among us, to breathe the air we breathe and to know intimately the pain of human suffering. We do not believe in a deity who sits apart and lords over us, but a meek and gentle God who resides deep within our being, knows the hurt we feel and yearns each day for the chance to reach out and touch us with His love. As missionaries, we are called first to notice the creator God in our hearts, to accept the gift of His love. Only then can we be alert and ready to meet with God in other people, to go out and to love our neighbour, whoever they are and whenever it may happen – stay awake!
Of course, no one is perfect and the course of true love never runs smooth. The journey to discover God is one that we need to repeat, time and again. For this reason, the Church gives us the season of Advent and invites us to step aside from the bustle and worries of our daily lives, to spend quiet time contemplating the divine spark within us. Perhaps our very different circumstances this Advent will give us the chance to listen to God in new and surprising ways. Instead of relying on fairy lights and the ‘usual’ family get together, let the light of Christ shine through the kindness we show to our sisters and brothers all around us, so that everyone may feel comfort and joy this Christmas and beyond.
I recently came across someone who inspired me. His name is Howard Thurman and he was a theologian, educator and civil rights leader in America. He wrote a poem about Christmas that captures perfectly the spirit of what I want to share with you.
Thank you for your ever kind and generous support to Columban Mission. God’s mission never stops and we are not standing still in our efforts to live the Gospel in Britain and around the world.
We hope to meet some of you in 2021 in the Southwark and Shrewsbury dioceses, and in Scotland, and we remember you all this Advent and Christmas in the Masses we celebrate and the prayers we offer.
God bless you all!
Yours in the peace of Christ,
Fr. Peter Hughes SSC
Columban Director in Britain
The Work of Christmas
When the song of the angels is stilled,
when the star in the sky is gone,
when the kings and princes are home,
when the shepherds are
back with the flocks,
then the work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
to heal those broken in spirit,
to feed the hungry,
to release the oppressed,
to rebuild the nations,
to bring peace among all peoples,
to make a little music with the heart.
And to radiate the Light of Christ,
every day, in every way,
in all that we do and in all that we say.
Then the work of Christmas begins.