During Advent we prepare for the Christmas season and we think of peace, joy, love, thanksgiving and spending time with our loved ones. It is the season for exchanging gifts and eating too much and, for some, drinking too much as well.
When we go to Mass we picture the scene over 2,000 years ago when the Prince of Peace was born in a stable in Bethlehem. We look into the crib and it reflects a beautiful tableau of a starry night with a new-born baby surrounded by his parents, shepherds and kings. This year I was privileged to go to the Holy Land and stayed in Bethlehem. It was so different to that tableau. Bethlehem was walled in by the Israelis and it was a very poor town. There was poverty and unrest. The people were very friendly but oppressed.
Jesus said in John’s Gospel (12:8) that ‘you will always have the poor among you’. This is very true, as we only have to look around us to see homeless people on the streets of Liverpool, food banks in most churches, and centres for the poor and homeless. This year, Pope Francis made 17 November a World Day for the Poor and encouraged us to feed the poor. Working with Nugent Care, volunteers from our UCM raised money and invited 50 poor people for a meal at the Cathedral. It was very humbling for us and a great success.
As this is my first year as Archdiocesan President I wasn’t sure what to write and then I asked myself what would I say to you if I met you today at this special time of year and I knew I would want to wish you a happy and holy Christmas. So may the gift of God-with-us, Emmanuel, be born anew in us this Christmas. May God bless you and your families and as we gather around the crib this Christmas, and please say a prayer for the people of Bethlehem.