‘Tonight we are caught up in a most extraordinary story – the longing for a Messiah that stretches back for thousands of years in the memory of the People of Israel – and the plan for our salvation that stretches back to the beginning of time in the mind of God. It is hard to imagine the truth that lies at the heart of what we celebrate tonight. The simple story of the birth of God’s Son at Bethlehem sets before us the mystery that surrounds us tonight…’
These are the opening words from His Grace’s homily as we embark once more on this most joyous of celebrations. ‘There were no cataclysmic battles as we see in the latest Star Wars film or in the epic film The Lord of the Rings’, he said. No, ‘God’s love enters into our human affairs quietly and in a hidden way – a way that only gradually unfolds in the story of a young woman expecting a child, a couple forced on an arduous journey by the demands of the law, anxiously looking for somewhere to stay, for Mary to give birth to her first-born child. God enters the world in a stable, as a tiny helpless baby.’
God longs for union with us, ‘The all-powerful, eternal and all-knowing God, the creator and lord of the entire universe, is not so remote that we cannot know or approach him. The most unsettling aspect of our relationship with our maker is that he longs for us so much that he has come to share our lives.’
His Grace reminds us that ‘On this great feast of the Incarnation we remember that this child didn’t only come for the believer, the faithful – he has come for everyone and especially for those whose lives are lived under a shadow today. He is here for those who are homeless in our city, for those whose lives are blighted by drugs or by debt, for those who are anxious about their health or their work, their family or their future.’
This message is not just for ourselves, we must first receive it ourselves but then, as His Grace points out, a challenge is put forth…, ‘The Christ-child beckons us to the crib to be close to him tonight. We should go and pray there in company with Mary and Joseph. But if we do he will want to send us out to show his love to others. He will challenge us to take his message of love to the people who walk in darkness in our own time, to lead them into his own wonderful light.’
Politics and economics, philosophy, science and technology can all be useful tools to assist the progress of humanity but only Christ ultimately fulfils. Ending his homily His Grace left us with the words, ‘only the light of Christ reveals the true meaning of our lives’.
Archbishop Bernard’s homily in full: CHRISTMAS MIDNIGHT MASS 2017