If we take time to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas, the feast can transform our lives, and not just for a few days at the end of the year. The Christmas message of peace and love never changes from one year to the next because it is there for us every day of our lives. The Gospel tells us that 'God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.' We remember this especially at Christmas, showing our thanks by reaching out to those around us.
We remember the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem: the Nativity reproduced each year in numerous plays and presentations and recreated through the centuries in countless works of art. The stable, Mary, Joseph and the child Jesus, visited by shepherds and wise men.
It is right that we should remember and celebrate in this way, but sometimes our celebrations can lose sight of the reality of that cold winter's night two thousand years ago. The distance travelled: Mary and Joseph were far from home, they were living in a land ruled by an occupying power, forced to travel to Bethlehem to take part in a census. When they arrived there, among the crowd, there was nowhere for them to stay until an innkeeper let them use a stable. There were shepherds looking after their flocks on a dark hillside with no light and no warmth and wise men who travelled from afar, a great distance, in the hope of seeing the Saviour.
Suddenly, a transformation as darkness became light. A child is born. Shepherds, at first cowering and scared, have a vision of angels bringing tidings of great joy, for 'today a Saviour has been born to us, he is Christ the Lord'.
Christmas transforms our lives too, especially if we give to those around us: to people who are on their own at Christmas, or by visiting the housebound and the sick in hospital. We can make welcome those, who like Mary and Joseph, are far from home; those seeking asylum, those in prison, and members of the Forces who must be apart from their loved ones.
On Christmas Day we hear the account of the Nativity showing us what God's love means for us today. Let us recognise His love so that our lives may be transformed.
With my prayers and every good wish for a happy and peaceful Christmas.