A Christmas Message from the Diocesan Administrator
|We celebrate the gift from God that is the person of Jesus Christ, born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem in very humbling circumstances.|
From Very Rev Peter G Williams, Catholic Outlook December 2014/January 2015
Dear People of the Catholic Diocese of Parramatta,
Recently, I was walking with a friend through a local shopping mall and was confronted by a long queue of mums and dads with young children lining up to have a photo taken with Santa Claus.
This was mid-November and every year the appearance of Christmas decorations and men in red suits seem to arrive earlier and earlier!
When I commented on it, my friend said: “There are now two ways of celebrating Christmas – sacred and secular.” That has certainly been the case now for many years and periodically some Christian groups make attempts to ‘put Christ back into Christmas’.
Sectors of the Christian community might lament that Christmas has been hijacked by secular and commercial interests, but to suggest that the Church can exclusively claim it back is, I think, a lost cause.
The two ‘forms’ of Christmas then provide a real challenge to us. In Australia I think the commercial and secular observance of Christmas has largely to do with two factors – the end of the civil year, and the onset of summer and the traditional ‘close down’ in Australian society that happens from 24 December until about the middle of January.
The end-of-year Christmas parties, lunches and other events use the iconography and music of Christmas as the veneer for what is really the end of the working year celebration.
For many who participate in such functions it can be a time of excess and even stress. The pressure on families to expend monies on gifts and the expectations of children can be a real emotional and financial burden for some.
For others, sadly, Christmas compounds their sense of isolation from their families and the community as past relationship breakdowns come back to haunt them and Christmas magnifies the pain.
This is such a far cry from the Christian observance of Christmas where we celebrate the gift from God that is the person of Jesus Christ, born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem in very humbling circumstances.
While Christmas is supposed to echo the song of the angels, ‘Glory to God in the highest and peace to all those who enjoy God’s favour’, that most profound of proclamation for most people gets lost in the canned music that plays above their heads in the aisles of the supermarkets.
What to do?
Firstly, Christmas can be and should be a time that focuses on an acknowledgement that we really do need a Saviour who has and continues to redeem the world through His love. The Church is called to radiate the love of Christ to the world and draw others into its embrace.
On a practical level our parishes should do all they can to ensure that those who attend the Christmas liturgies are made to feel welcome and that they rightly have a place in our parish communities.
Certainly, our Diocesan Pastoral Plan, Faith in Our Future, encourages us to reach out to those who for whatever reason find themselves on the periphery of the Church.Continue reading Letter of Very Rev Peter G Williams at the Catholic Outlook site
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