The Archbishops of Armagh, The Most Revd Richard Clarke and The Most Revd Eamon Martin write:
"God's love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him." 1 John 4:9
Together we wish you all a very happy and blessed Christmas, and God's richest blessings in the year that lies ahead.
The world at the end of 2016 seems a very different place than it did at this time last year. People speak of a profound and pervasive sense of uncertainty and insecurity all around us. Many are now finding themselves asking questions about their identity in a new and bewildered way. Is our deepest identity to be found in the local setting, or in a wider context? How local a setting, and how much wider a context?
From a Christian perspective, our fullest identity is found in our being children of God, an identity we share with everyone on this planet. This is the central message of the Gospel and it is presented with a supreme clarity in the Christmas story. God comes among us in the person of Jesus Christ, not as an outsider but as fully human and with a perfect love for all humankind.
The story of Christmas is however the story of someone who does not fit easily into neat categories. Jesus Christ became, for a time, a migrant child. He and his family fled to a foreign country because their lives were at risk. The plight of so many hundreds of thousands of displaced people in the world today gives us all cause for thought. If our concern with our own identity allows us to think of others as less worthy of God's love or less in his heart of love than are we, then we are both deluded and dangerous. But Christmas, with its message of joy and hope, is a celebration of the real identity we all share in the love of Jesus Christ for us.
Let us bring that joy and hope into our Christmas festivities and into the coming year.
Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Armagh
Read all the Messages and Reflection from the Irish Bishops here: www.catholicbishops.ie/2016/12/21/bishops-messages-and-reflections-for-christmas-2016/