25/12/2015 7:39 am
All of us here at the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales wish you, your families and friends a peaceful and blessed Christmas.
Here's a Christmas message from Father Chris Thomas, General Secretary of the Bishops' Conference, giving an experience-led, spiritual reflection on the nativity, the Holy Family and the powerful expression of the Father calling us back to him through the Christ child.
"One of my earliest memories is being tucked into bed by my mother and her kissing my forehead. It may not seem like an extraordinary act but I remember it. Even now I can still smell her perfume as she came close enough to kiss my forehead and wish me goodnight. I must have only been only about five or six years old but even now forty years on the memory is still as vivid now as if it were only moments ago. That was a moment of safety and protection - a moment of love.
"Today is Christmas Day. Today families will gather all over the world to celebrate together. There will be a richness in that celebration, in that gathering of mothers and fathers, children and grandparents, aunts and uncles and friends.
"Presents will be shared. Food, for some, will be there in abundance and it will all be eaten. Drinks and toasts will be drunk and made. It will be a day of plenty - a day of joy.
"It will also be a day of difficulty for those who don’t have a family to share it with - the homeless, refugees, those who in fear of their families, the elderly who will have no visitors. The truth of Christmas, that God came to our world and dwelled amongst us, is as true for these people as those who have so much.
"For when Jesus came into our world, God who is capable of all things could have sent his son as an avenging deity, powerful and terrifying, but he didn’t. He sent his son into the heart of the family, conceived in Mary's womb by the power of the Holy Spirit, she bore him with a love beyond all telling until his birth. When he was born, not in a palace or stately home, he was placed in a manger surrounded by animals but more importantly by the love of Mary and Joseph.
"God shows his mercy to all of humanity at Christmas in the most profound way Jesus tells us in his ministry 'to see me is to see the Father' and the merciful face of the Father is found in the Son.
"So for all of us, we have to accept that we do need that mercy in our lives. That merciful love will enfold us in the moment of our death and the image of the child lying in the manger which is common to all of our cribs that we find in our churches and in our homes shows us the beginning of the merciful face of God.
"This year as you see that crib scene, pause, think of that loving mercy of God not in history but now as a powerful expression of the Father calling us back to him through the Christ child.
"Pray for all families - especially on this Christmas Day - that they will be places of safety and of love.
"Pray for all those in need and those that are lonely, that they will be helped through the practical charity of our church, and, above all, let us go to that Christ child and know his love and mercy for each one of us.
"Just as I can remember that loving kiss of my mother as a child, a kiss of safety and protection - a kiss of mercy - we can imagine kissing that child in the manger. We worship him as our lord and our God because he is the one who reveals the merciful face of the Father.
"May this Christmas Day bring blessing, peace and love to you all."
The Year of Mercy, given to us by Pope Francis, presents the ideal opportunity to focus on God's mercy and forgiveness.
To mark this, many of the Bishops of England and Wales have recorded special reflections for Advent. One podcast reflection will be uploaded every day throughout the season.
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