Different continents, languages and cultures ... yet all sisters and brothers
I would like to bring to everyone the message that the church proclaims on the Christmas feast with the words of the prophet Isaiah: “To us a child is born, to us a son is given.”
A child is born. A birth is always a source of hope; it is life that blossoms, a promise of the future.
Moreover, this child, Jesus, was born “to us”; an “us” without any borders, privileges or exclusions.
The child born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem was born for everyone; he is the “son” that God has given to the entire human family.
Thanks to this child, all of us can speak to God and call him “Father”. Jesus is the only begotten son; no one but he knows the Father.
Yet he came into the world for this very reason — to show us the face of the Father. Thanks to this child, we can all call one another sisters and brothers, for so we truly are.
We come from every continent, from every language and culture, with our own identities and differences, yet we are all sisters and brothers.
At this moment in history, marked by the ecological crisis and grave economic and social imbalances only worsened by the coronavirus pandemic, it is all the more important for us to acknowledge one another as sisters and brothers.
God has made this fraternal unity possible, by giving us his son, Jesus. The fraternity he offers us has nothing to do with fine words, abstract ideals or vague sentiments.
It is a fraternity grounded in genuine love, making it possible for me to encounter others different from myself, feeling compassion for their sufferings, drawing near to them and caring for them even though they do not belong to my family, my ethnic group or my religion.
For all their differences, they are still my sisters and brothers. The same thing is true of relationships between peoples and nations — sisters and brothers all.
There's no question that 2020 and 2021 have been one of the toughest years that our generation has experienced.
The problem is that, with Omicron, 2022 does not at this stage look much more promising. There is so much to be uncertain about, as we emerge from 2021 and it feels very uncomfortable.
So, is my message for 2022 all doom and gloom? No way. There will always be uncertainties which can't be avoided. This is how life is.
Even the most carefully planned diary can be thrown into confusion and chaos by unwelcome and unexpected intrusions that throw our plans out of the window; a sudden bereavement, an accident, a loss of income, a breakdown of a relationship and so on.
However, Christian faith believes that God has not deserted his world; He has come to us in the person of Jesus and is on course to right every wrong and bring order out of chaos.
Christian hope lies at the heart of Christianity and while it will not remove all the bumps in the road and suddenly and automatically make life easy and comfortable, it does enable us to keep going, because we know there is an end in view, we know what that end will be and we can press on in faith.
Christian love delivers examples of that kind of ongoing community care through a variety of networks, not least the service the Christian community brings to the table and doing all this in partnership with others, so that it is a shared venture.
So, with fervent prayers and greetings, I am happy to wish you a peaceful, hopeful and restful Christmas, and a healthy-full and blessings-full 2022.
And high fives of peace and human fraternity.