CHRISTMAS MESSAGE FROM CARDINAL O BRIEN :
It is indeed a privilege being asked to deliver a Christmas message at this time “ and, for me, a joy to be able to use the themes suggested by this year s Christmas stamps.
This year, in accordance with a recent convention of alternating secular and religious themes, religion and the Gospel story of the Nativity is very much to the fore, in fact the 2011 Christmas stamps are exceptional, not simply in concept “ they adopt the Nativity narratives of Matthew and Luke s Gospels “ but in design, they are beautifully engaging and colourful renditions of that incredible, wonderful story of the birth of Jesus Christ, God made man.
This series of stamps tell that story and I believe it is one which our society needs to hear today more than ever before. That Nativity narrative is contained in the two quotations from St Matthew s Gospel, which remind us that Mary will give birth to a son who must be named Jesus; and that this miraculous birth fulfils the prophesy in the Old Testament that a son will be born called Immanuel, a name which means ˜God is with us . As we think of these words, we realise something of the love of God for his people in giving them his son “ and we realise the wonder of that message that that son is God who is still with us.
Recent reports suggest that the cost of a child is now over £100,000 in its early years, in the midst of our plenty we may lavish many gifts on our new born. Yet think of the lack of any expensive trappings in that birth in a stable, but realise that that child was surrounded by what is most important in the life of any person, namely basic love. We heard recently, that the population of our world has reached 7 billion. I wonder if each and every life is valued as it should be as our Saviour was.
As at the first Christmas, shepherds and kings, the poor and the rich, the deprived and the mighty “ altogether must realise this Christmas message of the love of God for mankind and of the response that should be given by each and every individual person in their own lives to that call of love from God.
Yes at this Christmas time, these words should give us encouragement to carry that message of love from the Nativity scene into our communities, our churches and our homes. God has indeed shown his love for us and given his Son, Jesus, as God-with-us. Our response must surely be one of love, especially at this time “ love of God, love of our neighbour, love of those who are in most need at home and throughout our world.