By Canon Gerry Conroy

The usually joyous time of year with the celebrations and family meetings that take place has received a serious blow to its festivities with the lockdown that is looming and the renewed threats to people’s health. It doesn’t seem to make a huge difference to the dark cloud this has brought on people to know that the vaccine is not too far away. If Christmas were all about those celebrations, then we would indeed be in a sorry state. Unfortunately for many that is all there is to Christmas. Life is full of chaos and contradictions; at times it is more of a conundrum than anything else. Perhaps that is why this feast of the birth of Christ is a particularly apt feast to renew and strengthen our hope and our joy.

The joy it gives isn’t simply in the fact of Christ’s birth, it is also surely in the manner in which he was born and the way his birth was announced. It was announced to shepherds in a field on a dark night. This joy was given to a powerless group of inconsequential individuals, and they were told a saviour and been born. ‘But’, they were told, ‘do not to look for him in palaces not even in a house, but in a cave with the animals without even a bed for him to lie on’. Just as life is full of contradictions for us so this child has become a contradiction to all human power and expectation. It is this very enigma of his birth that tells us to look to something else, not to what we know, but to the mystery of life that we feel and experience, to look to that feeling of the transcendence of life that somehow reaches beyond the misery and the sorrow and the disappointment of life. Look to that if we want to begin to understand what we celebrate tonight.

For us the future is always uncertain, modern life is uncertain. The power and the security that we can give ourselves, our knowledge and intelligence, science and technology will always be uncertain. In this world the security of our social status, even our sense of our identity will always be uncertain because the world in which we live and all it contains can give us no certainty. It is into this world that Christ is born to bring us hope, encouraging us to lift our eyes beyond the uncertainty to what we dream of and hope for; what it is impossible for us of ourselves to accomplish. This baby born today doesn’t give us control or a world we can understand; he doesn’t give us predictability; yet what he gives us can enable us to turn the course of events upside down. He gives us hope that all these awesome apparently numb, dumb blind forces which cannot be reached by human comprehension and potency can be tamed and turned to our good. He gives us the mystery of life to be our own and in it to discover life, and in the midst of all this chaos and uncertainty to discover him and his saving presence with us.

Canon Gerry Conroy is parish priest of St Patrick’s, Dumbarton

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