By Bishop Donald Sproxton
The birth of a baby is a time of promise.
With the safe arrival of the child, there is a mix of relief and joy, as well as wonder.
The mum and dad marvel at the little hands and feet, fingers and toes, and they whisper a quiet prayer of thanks for their healthy baby.
Some time later, the parents begin to think and ponder on what will become of their new born child.
The birth of the child is a new beginning. It is as though a tired old world is renewed and new possibilities begin to emerge.
In one sense, the new life will make possible a new cycle of human growth and development.
The wisdom and learning of countless previous generations will be passed on, and yet there will be room for new things, new insights and discoveries to enrich humanity through the life of this person.
The wondrous celebration of Christmas signals the beginning of a new time.
The old year is fast coming to an end and the new one is beginning.
To celebrate the birth of Christ at this point of transition is providential.
As we leave behind the past time, we may look ahead with a sense of promise and hope because of the birth of Jesus, the Christ, the promised One.
Pope Benedict, now an old and venerable man, has seen so many years come and go.
Yet he retains so much hope as seen in his addresses and writings.
The years have not become a burden of bitterness and regret, but they have served to buoy his hope simply because in his Christian faith he has discovered the key to life and salvation.
When he talks about faith, he always includes truth and love.
He likes to say that God, Christ and Love form a harmonious circle.
The key that Benedict has discovered ensures that he remains positive and open to new possibilities, because the great gift of God, his Son Jesus Christ, is inexhaustible, as long as we remain in his love.
So with our celebration of Christmas, let us be filled with hopefulness for the new time ahead.
We are opening ourselves once more to the mystery of the birth of our saviour, the God who has made Himself visible and comes close to us through His love for us.
There is little doubt that we are in need of a saviour.
It does not take us too long to see, when we begin to reflect on our lives, that we are fallible and that we can find at times how expedient it is to choose the lesser good, the easy way out of a tight situation or to protect our interests at all costs.
A figure in the story of Christmas who illustrates this, is the king – Herod. Lately, I have been reading about him and the huge number of historical figures associated with the story of Jerusalem.
Herod was a real monster. For the sake of power and protecting his own interests, he was prepared to kill.
He was responsible for the murders of his wife, most of his children and close relatives, the high priest and his son, and anyone whom he considered a rival.
The Roman Emperor Augustus, a friend, once joked that he would rather be Herod’s pig than his son since Jews do not eat pigs.
It was into this world that Jesus was born. His impact and that of the Gospel was to change that world.
We are living in a challenging time, as all times are.
The power of Christ is as necessary today as it ever has been.
To be given access to this power is a remarkable sign of God’s love.
At Christmas let us reflect on this gift of God, that knowing our personal need to be strengthened and changed, he entered human history as a baby out of love for you and me to give us the capacity to be more than we are.
In turn, may we be able to be agents of change in our time.
I pray that with our celebration of Christmas we will be ready to acknowledge the place of God in our lives.
May we find the strength to renew our faith and draw close to God, who provides us with the Sacraments and the Word for the encounter of love.
Let me conclude with my best wishes and blessing for Christmas and the New Year.