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Christmas reflection: The birthday of hope

JESUS was born into dark times, into times of unrest and upheaval.

He chose to reveal His message in a backward and unfashionable place yet within a relatively short period of time this message spread throughout the known world.

It was to bring the gift of hope to millions of people who up to that point had suffered in the darkness, fear and superstition of paganism.

Those who have followed His teaching and example ever since have challenged the injustice, violence and suffering that is so often prominent in human society.

We know, however, that the powers of evil and darkness are still rampant in our world. War and terrorism affect the lives of millions. Children and young people are still exploited for sexual or financial gain.

The natural resources of the earth are recklessly exploited. Corruption abounds among the rulers of many nations and the Church has been rocked by scandal.

When we look at the state of our world it can be hard at times to believe that Jesus Christ has conquered sin and darkness, but He has, and despite all, He still gives us hope.

The birth of this hope is what we celebrate at Christmas and this season always brings a glimpse of something better into our lives.

Even though there may be many reasons for sadness, anxiety, and despair, this feast cuts through the darkness and points to what can be and will be in the future.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the American poet, captured the power of this season perfectly in his poem I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.

In the midst of significant personal sorrow, the bells of Christmas gave him confidence for the future:

And in despair I bowed my head;

"There is no peace on earth," I said;

"For hate is strong

And mocks the song

Of peace on earth, good will to men."

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep.

"God is not dead, nor doth he sleep!

The wrong shall fail,

The right prevail,

With peace on earth, good will to men!"

Bishop Michael Router

Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Armagh

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