FOR ALL PEOPLE EVERYWHERE
Since I wrote to you last month, we as a family have made Bishop’s House in Kilkenny very much our new home. We are enjoying the seasonal atmosphere of the streets and shops at this time of the year. I admit that I also enjoy the striking but complimentary contrast between the church and the commercial world for most of this month. As Christians, we mark the first weeks of December as Advent. We sing the distinctive and glorious hymns and hear scripture readings prompting us to be eager and expectant as we journey in faith. When we see the light of the traditional Advent Wreath in our worship or in our homes, we know that the time will soon come when we put up our Christmas decorations. For us, it will be interesting to see where we place our well-used decorations and ornaments around our new home.
We have a family tradition that we try to buy one new Christmas decoration at some point in the year. There have even been occasions when we have found Christmas decorations available for sale in craft shops when on our summer holidays. Putting these up in December reminds us of the sunshine and happy memories earlier that year.
Nativity scene reflection
Last year we bought a new nativity scene. It is both familiar and distinctive in that all the figures are people of colour. It prompts us to think about the events of that first Christmas in a different way. So often we want things to be traditional and comfortable, and this is perhaps particularly so at Christmas. Inevitably we read the biblical passages through our own cultural lens and see the characters in the drama as very similar to ourselves. But they were not. They were people of their time and place and yet also representative of us and of all humanity. When we put out this nativity scene in our home later this month, I will be prompted to reflect on the universal message of the birth of the Christ Child for all people everywhere. Perhaps too, I will be reminded of those who try to celebrate but in circumstances of conflict or exile, or where meagre resources are stretched very thinly indeed. I hope to think of people who are neighbours and friends, but who are in need of encouragement and support.
Looking into this month, we record with regret the departure of two members of the clergy from our fellowship. Revd Conor O’Reilly has been appointed Rector of Athy in the Diocese of Dublin. He has served as curate in Wexford and Kilscoran Union since 2018, during which time he was also responsible for the parish when that incumbency was vacant. He has also supported the work of this publication and other diocesan communication through social media.
At the end of this month, Canon Robert Jones retires as incumbent of Kiltegan after 43 years in the ordained ministry. I have known him as a colleague and friend from the time we both were clergy in the Diocese of Meath. He is a highly regarded and faithful priest, and we wish him well as he prepares to move to Athlone early in the new year.
The forthcoming departure of these ministry colleagues reminds us again of how liturgical resources and pastoral cover are stretched. Our Diocese is not at all unique in this regard. We are grateful for the dedicated team of active clergy, who along with the assistance of retired clergy and readers, do so much to maintain the pattern of regular worship in our churches. This month is one of the liturgical highpoints of the year, but I ask that parishes are flexible in their expectations, bearing in mind what can be provided from the resources at hand.
As Christians, we recognise that Advent is not about the coming of Christmas, but about the coming of Christ and that when we do at last sing ‘Be born in us today,’ these won’t be empty words, but a real longing for Christ to find his home within us.
As I end my letter, I wish you a good Advent and a joy filled Christmas.