and for others an experience of loneliness.
For most of us Christmas is a time for looking back to see how we might move forward with hope in our hearts.
Looking back at 2016 could be a depressing experience. The big stories, like Brexit, Trump, and Syria do not generate much hope. Indeed, these stories and others
have provoked a backlash of anti-establishment sentiment, a growing populism of the left and the right, and an increasingly scant regard for facts/evidence/truth in public discourse.
For me the most disturbing headline of the year came from a UN official who pointed out in the context of what was happening in Aleppo that we were witnessing;
“a complete breakdown of humanity”
In other words, what was going on in Aleppo, and across Europe with the migrant crisis, was the collapse of humanity, the disintegration of human dignity, and a denial of the uniqueness of every human being.
However, we do not have to go to Syria or Europe to see this denial of human dignity. It is happening here in Ireland in the crisis of homelessness. For the last few years, emergency measures have been put in place every Christmas by different governments to cover over the humanitarian crisis we see unfolding before our eyes in Ireland. We know that such emergency measures are merely short-term and do not address the structural issues of homelessness.
Lest we become depressed, we should remember there is another story to be told, the Christian narrative, that happened two thousand years ago. It is in part a story of homelessness experienced by the migrant couple Joseph and Mary.
It is also a story about God coming among us not as a king, not as a celebrity, not as a TV personality but as a child representing all children, as a humble human being representing all human beings. We call this the mystery of the Incarnation: “And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn.1:14)
The Incarnation is not a once-of event that happened 2000 years ago. Instead, the Incarnation is an ongoing reality. The Word of God becomes flesh all around us in the birth of every child and in the existence of every human being.
The Incarnation, the Nativity narrative, is the foundation for the dignity of every human being. Because God came among us in the person of Jesus, every child is unique, every human being is sacred, and every person a child of God deserving respect, recognition and reverence.
If we can begin to glimpse the meaning of Christmas, the underlying significance of the Incarnation, then we don’t have to accept the “meltdown of humanity” in Syria, or the collapse of human dignity across Europe, or the neglect of families and children in Ireland. But, and this is the challenge for all of us, if we can see the meaning of Christmas, that is if we can see the face of God in the face of the child in the crib, then we are obliged to do something to protect the uniqueness and dignity of every human being on our planet.
Another way of saying this is to evoke the image of the light shining in the darkness and the inability of the darkness to overpower it:
“The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it” (Jn.1:5).
We live in a world made up of a mixture of light and darkness. The light of Christ flickers in the darkness of our world. The late Leonard Cohen reminded us “There is a crack in everything” and “That’s how the light gets in”. The light of Christ is trying to get through our broken humanity in Syria, Europe and Ireland. If we can recognise that light coming through our own brokenness, there is a better chance that we will recognise the brokenness of others and seek todo something about it.
On behalf of the Parish Team, the Parish Council and all our volunteers I wish you a Happy Christmas and the gift of Peace throughout 2017