Christmas message from Archbishop of Birmingham

 On a hillside long ago, a small group of shepherds were eking out a simple existence. They lived hand to mouth. They were outcasts on the margins of society. They were content with their own company. No one trusted them and, in turn, they trusted no-one. One night a new light burst into their lives. This was the light of Christmas. Today many people still live in a darkness that restricts life: sickness, immobility, loneliness or addiction. This darkness constricts their God given dignity, reducing them to a shell of what they should be. Even in this darkness we are celebrating Christmas. It seems to break down barriers between cultures and backgrounds. We are all saying to each other, 'Have a good Christmas!' We see Christmas everywhere we go. There are street lights, posters, adverts, carol concerts and other special events to raise funds for those in most need. The light of Christmas pierces the darkness that dampens our spirit. The light of Christmas enlightens the human person. On Christmas day the goodness that God has given to each of us is reclaimed. On this one-day we can glimpse, even if briefly, the loveliness and gentleness within every person. The light of Christmas warms us. The unusually mild weather we are experiencing even has nature confused! The trees in the garden still have the dead leaves of autumn and the new green sprouts of spring. But this inner warmth softens our hearts towards one another. The light of Christmas exposes us to the God of compassion. As the year draws to a close we may recall events of fun, laughter and happiness. We may also remember times of sadness and sorrow. We have recently been saddened by the Suffolk murders. The celebration of Christmas is all about the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. In him we see again the beautiful love of God. The truth is that God loves us so much that he chose to be born in the stable in Bethlehem. This love, which is a totally free gift, can set free our human spirit from everything that limits life. This feast shows us again just how almighty God really is. He is so powerful, so strong, so full of love for us that he can even become so small that he fits into a stable in Bethlehem! It is my special prayer that you have a truly blessed Christmas. May the light of Christmas, the light of Jesus Christ, shine in your life always. Archbishop Vincent Nichols

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