Bishop Paul Bird – Christmas Message 2012

Bishop Paul Bird

Charles Dickens is famous for his novels such as The Adventures of Oliver Twist and Great Expectations. He also wrote a little book called The Life of Our Lord. He wrote this especially for his own children and he used to read it to them every Christmas. The book begins with these words:

“My dear children, I am very anxious that you should know something about the history of Jesus Christ. For everybody ought to know about Him. No one ever lived who was so good, so kind, so gentle, and so sorry for all people who did wrong, or were in any way ill or miserable, as He was.”

Charles Dickens then goes on to tell the story of Jesus in simple words. He writes:

“Jesus was born a long long time ago – nearly two thousand years ago – at a place called Bethlehem. The angel told the shepherds to go to the stable and look at the little child in the manger. Which they did; and they knelt down by it in its sleep, and said ‘God bless this child!’”

Dickens highlights Christ’s love for all people, especially for the poor and those who were suffering.

“When Jesus had grown up he would choose some special followers to go about with him. These are called the ‘disciples’. He chose them from among the poor. He did this so that the poor might know – always after that, in all years to come – that heaven was made for them as well as for the rich, and that God makes no difference between those who wear good clothes and those who go barefoot and in rags.

“Never forget this, when you are grown up. Never be proud or unkind to any poor man, woman, or child. If they are bad, think that they would have been better, if they had had kind friends, and good homes, and had been better taught. So, always try to make them better by kind persuading words; and always try to teach them and relieve them if you can.

“And when people speak ill of the poor and miserable, think how Jesus Christ went among them and taught them and thought them worthy of his care.”

Christmas is a time for joy. As the angel said to the shepherds, “Do not be afraid. I bring you news of great joy, a joy to be shared by the whole people. Today, in the town of David, a saviour has been born for you; he is Christ, the Lord.” At Christmas we celebrate the birth of our Saviour, so it is a season for rejoicing.

Yet it also a season that brings a challenge – the challenge to follow Christ in caring for the people around us, especially the poor and those who suffer in so many ways.

If we think of countries around the world, we know that millions of families are destitute, with very little food or even clean water and without decent homes to live in. We can offer some help through organisations such as Caritas or Catholic Mission.

If we think of people in our own country, we know that even here some are very poor, without proper housing or medical care. We might be able to help directly through some practical assistance to our neighbours or we might be able to help through the St Vincent de Paul Society or some other group.

We know that there are people who have suffered in other ways too – through domestic violence, for instance, or through abuse as a child. God calls us to do what we can to relieve their pain and to help them recover from the trauma they have endured.

When Charles Dickens spoke about Jesus he said: “No one ever lived who was so good, so kind, so gentle, as He was.” As we celebrate Jesus’ birth, we rejoice in the goodness and kindness and gentleness He has shown to us. We also pray that we might learn from Him to be good and kind and gentle towards one another, especially towards the poor and all those who are suffering.

A blessed Christmas to you all!