EUROPE : GREAT BRITAIN : ARCHBISHOP NICHOLS CHRISTMAS MESSAGE
Bishops Conference of England release: This November a marvellous pilgrimage to the Holy Land was shared by 100 people from our Diocese. We visited Nazareth, Jerusalem and, of course, Bethlehem. Thoughts and prayers constantly filled our hearts and minds. Some among us had the skill to write them down, loving and poetically – words such as these:
"At the window….Mary's home…the archangel Gabriel … kneels alone …awesome …beautiful …filled with love's greeting…captured and bound…his architectural strength spills pools of brilliant rainbow light across the floor and the power of the most high stoops into the shadows of our life saying…. 'Come my love'…..and we walk with Mary to welcome Christ…in Joseph's home."
Yes, indeed, the power of the most high stoops into the shadows of our lives in that stable in Bethlehem. So we too stooped low to kiss the silver cross that marks the place of Christ's birth.
And we will do so before the crib this Christmas. In our churches, we will kneel before our new born Saviour, our hearts full of thoughts and prayers.
Take your time there. See in the images of the crib the great act of God's loving humility, coming to us in poverty so that we may not be overwhelmed by God's majesty but drawn to God's love.
As you see the outstretched arms of the child hear again those words of invitation: 'Come then, my love, my lovely one, come. For see, the winter is past the rains are over and gone.' These are indeed the words of the Lord to each one of us. He continues: 'Show me your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet and your face is beautiful.' (Song of Songs 2.10-14)
Here is the invitation of Christmas: that the Lord, in coming to us, wants above all to draw us to himself. He loves us, each of us, in our hidden selves, more than we could ever know. In his sight we are beautiful of face and sweet of voice. We may not think so. But he sees us with fresh, Christmas eyes. He sees deep into the soul given to each one of us by his heavenly Father and beautiful beyond measure.
Let us open our hearts to him, respond to his invitation, allow the life of our soul to breathe with a fresh grace, the grace that comes with forgiveness and repentance, the grace which enables us to rise from our knees with new heart, new hope and new love.
I wish you all a very happy and holy Christmas. Please keep your priests in your prayers this Christmas, as you are in theirs, and include me among them too.