Bishop Francis Duffy
A year ago, in preparation for our Diocesan Assembly, I referred to “the joys, anxieties and hopes that come with family life”.
Little did we know then the extraordinary challenges that 2020 would entail.
We have missed what we value most - people. We miss being with and among people, all the ordinary everyday encounters, free from restriction and anxiety. Christmas brings thoughts of people who are no longer with us, especially those who died during this year. We miss those we cannot visit as freely as usual, especially our family and friends who are in hospital or in nursing homes.
We cannot gather as a community to worship the Lord as we normally do; we long to be back. Priests and parishioners carry out Trojan work to keep our churches welcoming and safe and we are grateful to them for their work and care. Although we have experienced lockdown and restrictions the Lord is present with us in so many ways.
At Christmas we celebrate the arrival of God’s son among us. The story of the first Christmas in Bethlehem was full of hope and joy. What was expected for so long had come to pass. The Christmas story always refreshes our joy and our hope. The joy that each human life is of vital importance to God because of the baby in Bethlehem. The hope that this baby has changed the way we see ourselves, one another and our destiny.
We hope that life will become safer and less restricted because, decisions taken by individuals will, collectively, reduce the threat to health, lives and livelihoods. There is the hope that vaccines will assist in our great efforts to be safe. During 2020, there were times of sacrifice, when some of our normal freedoms were curtailed for the common good. There are many examples of great care and generosity throughout our parishes. We are grateful to all in leadership, essential services and in our communities whose work and sacrifice contribute to our safety.
The candles on the Advent Wreath are lit one Sunday after another, ushering us closer and closer, week by week, to Christmas. We look forward with great hope to celebrating the birth of the Saviour. Our hope is in him.
I wish you and your family and friends at home and abroad a happy Christmas.
- Francis Duffy, Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnois
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