By Donald Sproxton, Auxiliary Bishop of Perth
It is sometimes said that Christmas is “the silly season”. There is justification for this rather cynical view when we reflect on the fuss that surrounds the celebration of the feast. Yet could it be that all we do with Christmas speaks of our desire for those things that we search for throughout our lives?
The festival of the birth of Christ can provide people with the opportunity to come together, to end the year well with those they love and to look forward with renewed hope.
The Christian has similar aspirations and knows that it is with the coming of Jesus that unity, reconciliation, peace and hope for the future are possible. Jesus is at the heart of our celebration because it is around him that we know humanity can come together.
Whenever we celebrate Christmas, the birth of Christ, it seems natural for us, then, to see it as a feast of hope and peace.
Peace comes about when people acknowledge that though we are different, these differences need not separate us but that unity among us is possible. Unity that fully allows for human diversity is a product of true Catholicity.
Christmas allows us to thirst again for peace in our time. Christians know that it is a gift of God and a work to accomplish in and with Jesus Christ.
The setting for the story of Christmas is Bethlehem so our thoughts turn to the people of the Holy Land. Peaceful coexistence seems beyond the reach of the Jewish, Christian and Muslim communities.
The Christian communities are squeezed by ever more regulations and intimidation, and some communities have nearly disappeared. Yet there is a growing number of activists among the Jews, Christians and Muslims working for greater understanding, peace and reconciliation.
This gives a sense of hope that what appears to be impossible might in fact become a reality.
Bethlehem will again witness the gathering of Christians and Muslims on Christmas Eve to honour the birth of Jesus. They will pray for new understanding and respect, and we will join our own prayer to theirs that the various communities will find the way to live together in peace and harmony.
The Gospel helps us to understand who Jesus is. Jesus of Nazareth is son of Mary and Son of God, who shows the path to communion once more with the Father.
The baby born in Bethlehem was the fulfilment of the ancient promise that one would be sent to restore the peaceful and life giving relationship with God, with ourselves and with our brothers and sisters.
Our desire to end the year well and to experience peace is given focus in our celebration of the nativity of Christ. By turning to God, we can open our hearts to the only one who can bring us what we seek.
This can only happen if we accept that we are “beings-to-be-saved”. With this self-awareness, it is possible for us to turn to the Father. He will generously accept us and fill us with the power to become all that we can be.
Christmas may have been reduced to something silly in our days, but the real message of the festival is that unity, reconciliation, peace and hope are available to us through our faith in Jesus, the Lord our Saviour.
I will pray for you and the families of the Archdiocese at Christmas for the blessings of the Father so that we may enter into the joy of knowing the love God has for each of us and of learning the path to life from Jesus.
May you all have a blessed, safe and truly joyful Christmas as you look forward to the New Year.