In August I was fortunate to be asked by the Archbishop to be Priest to the community at Blessed Robert Grissold. I am very grateful for the warm welcome and all the love and support that I have received since then. I am sure that any visitors over the Christmas period will feel the same warmth, acceptance and hospitality.
Often people at this time of year will say that they feel that Christmas has lost its true meaning. The birth of Jesus, the coming into the world of the God who was made flesh, seems to have been lost somewhere amidst the madness of Black Friday, Cyber Monday, traffic jams, endless queues, buying, wrapping and beating the deadline at the Post Office. I understand what people mean about getting back to the real meaning of Christmas but whenever we long to have a Christmas as pure and holy and innocent as the scenes depicted on religious Christmas cards we run the risk of missing the whole point of Christmas.
For the very first Christmas day - the day of our Lord’s nativity - was not a holy day but a working day. Jesus was not born during a religious service but during a tax census. The day Jesus was born was therefore a time, so to speak, of the ringing of cash registers, the filling in and filing of tax returns, a time of people standing in long queues trying to make deadlines, a time of snarled traffic and crowds so dense that there was no accommodation available. And when the angels announced the glad tidings of Our Lord’s birth, it was not to priests praying in the temple but to shepherds, earning their living, in the fields.
This does not mean that the significance of Christmas cannot be buried beneath a welter of commercialism; what it does mean is that the true meaning of Christmas is that God entered the real world, the every day world of flesh and blood in Jesus Christ. God did not choose to enter the safe world of silent sanctuaries and hallowed spaces rather he pitched up in the rough and tumble, working world of people with jobs to do, fields to tend, anxieties to manage, with the government breathing down their necks at tax time.
This is the Good News of Christmas, that God, in Christ, comes to us where we are and as we are - in the midst of the hustle and bustle, the joys and struggles of our daily lives.
Pausing for prayerful reflection on the true meaning of Christmas can help us to be aware of this loving God who comes to us, not just as the baby of Bethlehem, not just in the sacrament of the altar, but who graciously comes to us in the sacrament of every moment.
Fr. Frank Smith.