Christmas Eve Homily By Bishop Brendan - 24th December, 2021 at St John Cathedral, Limerick....
Christmas Eve, 2021
St. John’s Cathedral
We’ve just listened to the Gospel with its many strange names of strange people. It’s all a way of telling us Jesus has a history. He came into our world in and through people with their stories and backgrounds. Jesus comes into our world, our history, making our story his.
I remember when I was younger someone used an image that struck me. He said that if you are buttoning something, let’s say your shirt, it’s important to get the first button right because, if not, the others will go out of kilter. Christmas is like getting the chance each year to go back and fix the first button on the garment of our lives. Surely that first button is one where we recognise what is said to us this evening. You are loved; you are not alone; you can love. God is with us in our story.
Let’s listen briefly to some of the great phrases we hear over Christmas and let them enter our heart:
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone”. Covid is trying to wear us down. it’s gloomy. It’s good to hear about the light of hope.
“For a child is born to us... They name him Wonder-Counselor… Prince of Peace”. There are many complicated situations around us. We need good counsel, good advice. Tonight, we celebrate the coming of a great Counselor into our lives: Jesus.
“The grace of God has appeared…training us…to be eager to do what is good”. The Limerick hurlers did us proud again this year. They do great things because they train well. This evening, we’re invited to go into training following Jesus who will lead us to do good.
“The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid… I proclaim to you good news of great joy”. We can never hear that word enough: “do not be afraid”. It’s repeated 315 times in the Bible. When you look at the Crib, let Jesus whisper to you: “do not be afraid”.
“A saviour has been born for you”. No matter what situation we are in or no matter situation our loved ones find themselves in, there is a way out. A saviour has been born for us. He wants nothing better than to save us from ourselves at times, and from the wrong turns we can make in life.
And a final word, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace”. It’s the great Christmas theme – peace. “Peace I leave you, my peace I give you”.
Yes, the Christmas message is wonderful: We’re not alone; God has a plan of love for us, and for our world; light can really conquer darkness.
I’m keeping my homily short this evening because during the week I visited young Nigerian priests who are here in Limerick studying and the Diocese is offering them hospitality. The Church in Africa is so alive and full of promise. One of these young priests performed a beautiful recitation that struck me. He composed it himself and I thought it was worth sharing. It’s about five minutes and I think you’ll find it very powerful. Let’s not worry about trying to catch every word or idea but let the Holy Spirit speak that word he wants you and me to hear this evening. So I will now invite Fr. Emmanuel to offer us his Christmas poem.