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Church Talk: For to us a child is born

Friday 22 December 2023 | Written by Supplied | Published in Church Talk, Features

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Church Talk: For to us a child is born
Takuvaine Tapere participating at Carol Evening event. SUPPLIED/ 23122140

Even though we have been celebrating Christmas for over 2000 years there is a timelessness about it, writes Bishop Paul Donoghue of the Catholic Church.

This is my 75th Christmas and I still look forward to celebrating it. It doesn’t matter where you go in the world or who you are with, Christmas is never forgotten. What is it about Christmas that has enabled it to survive 2000 years without dropping off our calendar?

Christmas takes us out of our routines. Suddenly all the rush of preparation is over and there is nothing more to do. This could be the moment to experience something different from the perpetual motion that is our ordinary life. But what happens? We turn on the TV, which is what we may have been doing every evening since last Christmas. No change. Then some of us say Christmas is boring, or sad, or too commercial. Of course, it is. It is just like all the other days. We have not allowed change to happen. We have not allowed space for anything new to appear.

Drive around the island of Rarotonga and notice the coloured street lights in the major villages and the multiplicity of all the flashing lights displayed by some businesses or water stations. There is the incessant television, the emailing and text-messaging. All have the effect of filling our lives and so leaving no space to move, no space for anything really different to appear. So we are enclosed in a cave of artificial lights that never lead us to the sun. “The light shines in the darkness.” But it does not shine in artificial light. We have to turn something off. We have to leave space and time for the new thing to appear.

“So they went in haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child. All who heard it were amazed by what had been told to them by the shepherds. And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” – Luke 2:16–19

As Christians we are claiming that when we re-enact the birth of Jesus, it is God’s new coming to the world, God’s coming to us. On December the 25th, 2023, what we have to be focused on is the newest, the youngest, the most recent and the latest intervention of God in the world. What happened 2000 years ago can happen again and again. But this is not announced in the excited voice of the advertisers, nor is it announced as breaking news by television announcers. It is a silent deed. The new Child is the Word made flesh, but he lies there as helpless to speak as any infant. Only in silence can this silent Word be heard. Any new born baby does not make a scene or a noise and neither does the Word made flesh.

I suggest we focus on the words of the carols we sing boisterously during the season of Christmas. Carols still help us to celebrate Christmas.

Holy night

One of the most recognised Christmas carols is “Holy Night”.

  1. Truly He taught us to love one another;
    His law is Love and His Gospel is Peace;
    Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother,
    And in his name all oppression shall cease,
    Sweet hymns of joy in grateful Chorus raise we;
    Let all within us praise his Holy name!
  2. Chorus
    Christ is the Lord, then ever! ever praise we!
    His pow'r and glory, evermore proclaim!
    His pow'r and glory, evermore proclaim!

Silent night

Or another great carol is “Silent Night.” Originally written in German, ‘Stille Nacht’ was composed in 1818 by Franz Xaver Gruber with lyrics by Joseph Mohr, and was translated to English in 1859. During the Christmas truce of 1914 during World War I, the carol was sung simultaneously by English and German troops.

Silent night, holy night

All is calm, all is bright

Round yon Virgin, Mother and Child

Holy Infant so tender and mild

Sleep in heavenly peace

Sleep in heavenly peace.

Christmas prayer for world peace

This Christmas my reflection has me praying for world peace. It staggers me that after 2000 years celebrating that the Messiah was sent into the world as our saviour, we still have wars like that currently being fought between Russia and Ukraine. Or between Hamas and Israel. How much of the present refugee crisis in Europe is caused by the lack of peace in homelands throughout Africa and the Middle East?

Christmas prayer for our planet earth

Another well-known carol is “Joy to the World.” As COP28 wrapped up in Dubai, have our world leaders taken to heart the groans of nature as we continue to exploit the planet? Can we sing this hymn “Joy to the world,” trusting that our leaders have not participated in another meeting on the world stage that will result in empty or broken promises in the future?

Pope Francis in a recent publication, Laudate Deum no 62 stated:

The Bible tells us: “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good” (Gen 1:31). His is “the earth with all that is in it” (Deut 10:14). For this reason, he tells us that, “the land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine; with me you are but aliens and tenants” (Lev 25:23). Hence, “responsibility for God’s earth means that human beings, endowed with intelligence, must respect the laws of nature and the delicate equilibria existing between the creatures of this world”.     

Christmas prayer for the people of the Cook Islands

Christmas is all about the Holy Family and the parents Joseph and Mary finding a place to give birth to their first born. And as far as I can judge in the Cook Islands, we see that Christmas is a time to focus on our own families. Whether it be the meal together, the giving of presents or socialising together.

  1. Joy to the world, the Lord is come               

             Let earth receive her King                              

             Let ev'ry heart prepare him room                  

             And heaven and nature sing. (x3)                      

2. Joy to the world, the saviour reigns

             Let men their songs employ

             While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains

Repeat the sounding joy, repeat the sounding joy. 

Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.

Yet we know that even our families have chains that need to be broken and healed by the love of God.  Abuse may have crept in, in the form of violence, whether physical or verbal. Addictions to alcohol and drugs put pressure on family relationships. Some may have been asked to leave the family when they have become so disruptive.

Let us therefore reach out in love to one another and pray for one another this Christmas, no matter our family circumstances, so that together we can celebrate the birth of Jesus with great joy!

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6

Wishing you all a merry and holy Christmas as you welcome God into your lives.