Lately, it has been cold and wet. But the other night the sky was clear, and maybe you noticed next to the moon a bright star, brighter than all the others. It is the planet Jupiter, visible at this time of the year. I live at St John’s Cathedral, in Portsmouth, in the middle of the city. With all the streetlights etc., it is not easy to see the stars. Our busy secular world is a bit like that: it cuts us off not just from the stars but from the sacred canopy of God, the angels, and the saints. It clouds our religious sense; we can no longer see clearly what our lives are about.
Christmas is a time to take stock.
This has indeed been a challenging year. There is the war in Ukraine, the impact of climate change, and now a cost-of-living crisis. Our hearts go out to the suffering in many parts of the world and here in the Diocese of Portsmouth, there are many facing hardship, for example, homeless people and elderly who live on their own.
These are difficult times. Yet Christmas calls us back to what is important. It makes us grateful for the good things we enjoy. It makes us aware of those less fortunate, and it moves us to help. The Christmas story, about how God came to save us and to raise us up, is a story of love. Jesus did not come as a powerful king or a wealthy celebrity. He came as a baby born into poverty. God is not far off in the skies like a distant star or planet; He is with us, Emmanuel, here and now. The Christmas story gives us hope, the hope that things will get better, the hope that one day all that is wrong will be made right.
Here is a proposal. This Christmas, why not call into your local church? Go and see the baby Jesus, lying in the manger. Spend a moment in silence. In this way, you will be filled with joy, happiness, and peace. Remember He came to make things better, so say a prayer to Him for anyone in need and resolve to do what you can to help.
I wish you, your families and your friends, a Merry Christmas, and a Blessed New
Rt. Rev. Philip Egan
Catholic Bishop of Portsmouth