Given at the livestreamed Carol Service Westminster Cathedral on the Fourth Sunday of Advent, 20th December 2020
What a difficult year! What a difficult Christmas this will be, with the new restrictions announced yesterday. Please do take care, of yourselves, your loved ones and for the sake of all with whom you come into contact.
During this time we are being pushed back into the confines of our homes, into our inner selves, without the other aspects of life which are so important: the ability to mix with others, to socialise and to entertain. But, thank God, we can come to church, to pray and praise God in the celebration of Mass. This too we must do with every care.
Let's be clear: Christmas is not cancelled. We will celebrate it with clear minds and hearts. We know what we are doing.
In these days we prepare for the great Feast of our Saviour's birth. We do so by joining in the Church's celebrations, as we are doing now. But in these circumstances, let us also prepare both our homes and our hearts for this precious day. Christmas, in its true meaning, belongs in our homes and in our hearts.
At home, please do set up a crib. Let it be an important focus of your attention. On Christmas Day, at home, gather round the crib, say a prayer together. Sing a carol together, or maybe more than one, choosing each person's favourite. Have your own 'at home' carol singalong!
Prepare a place for Jesus to dwell in your hearts. Ask him to be born again in you, in me, bringing with him the peace that only he can give. We need his loving presence to keep us going, personally and together, in this tough time. Find time every day to give him your undivided attention; speak with him of your sorrows and joys; tell him your worries, sharing them with him. Speak to him of your love, of your longing for harmony, of your desire for fairness and peace. Listen to his words of compassion and forgiveness, inviting you to offer the hand of forgiveness rather than the pointed finger of blame. This is what flows from his heart, from his manger, announced by the angels and received by those humble of heart, whether shepherds or kings.
Christmas comes, in our homes, in our hearts, in our communities. Nothing can take that away. So let us welcome his coming with an unambiguous joy, with a shared delight, with a generous spirit. We know what we are doing. Speak this wonderful Christmas story to each other, highlighting the wonder and the unshakable hope that it brings to all.
Perhaps you will remember these words:
'Christ dwelt for nine months in the tabernacle of Mary's womb. He dwells until the end of the ages in the tabernacle of the Church's faith. He will dwell forever in the knowledge and love of each faithful soul' (Blessed Isaac of Stella).
Photo from Christmas Celebration 2019 in Westminster Cathedral (Mazur/CBCEW.org.uk)