'Tonight we have come to Bethlehem, to a manger and a new-born babe: the king of kings who in his littleness holds true power and dominion', said Cardinal Vincent in his homily at the annual celebration of Midnight Mass of the Nativity of the Lord at Westminster Cathedral.
'Here we find our true selves and the fulfilling of our deepest desires,' he said. While others may entice us with empty promises, the Cardinal said that 'only here, in the stable of Bethlehem, do we find the one on whom we can truly depend'.
This year, he drew particular attention to those who are poor or forgotten, explaining: 'Deep in this night, we may recognise that neglect of God often shows itself first in neglect of our neighbour. When our neighbour becomes invisible or irrelevant then the light of the stable of Bethlehem is being slowly extinguished.'
He stressed that 'in our thoughts, prayers and actions there is to be room for the poor of our time so that they too may know this respect and concern. The list of those who seek our welcome is long: the homeless, the refugee, the victim of violence and human trafficking. Their voices call out for our compassion.'
He stressed particularly that we must pay attention to 'the voices of those caring for their elderly parents and relatives, whether at home or in care'. He said that'good care for the elderly & vulnerable should be nothing less than a defining characteristic of our society'.
'May God's presence be seen not only around our family table, but in our reaching out, as best we can, to all who need that care,' added the Cardinal.
Speaking to BBC news that same night and on the Good Morning Sunday on Radio 2 on Christmas Day, the Cardinal acknowledged the sense of uncertainty and helplessness in the face of different world forces that many feel in our society today. He said instead that we should look to the Christ Child, born in a stable in Bethlehem to re-discover the true worth of every human being.
'I hope Christmas refreshes the sense of compassion in us so that we might move away from the narrative of fear. Let’s get back to the fact that every person is precious in the eyes of God. We are never worthless, never, ever worth less. We have to find the worth of each person and respect them,' he said.
He also spoke of the contribution that religious faith can and does make to society: 'We have to trun the corner from see religious faith as a problem to seeing it as a huge resource. Faith in God gives us not only endurance but also nobility.'
He gave the example of faith communities working together in partnership through the government-sponsored community sponsorship scheme to welcome refugees, saying that it's important because 'it makes the refugee families feel welcomed in a personal way, and not just in a bureaucratic way'.
He added that 'there is indeed a greater willingness to welcome people in desperate need in this country' and he praised the community sponsorship scheme for opening up 'great potential'.
Asked about the secret of Christmas, he delivered this message:
'in Jesus, God embraces our poverty, so that in Jesus, God can raise us up to share in his glory. It’s a simple as that and as complex as we are!
'We know our poverty: the shallowness of so many of the things we boast about; the mess we make of our world. It is all so clear. Yet God embraces it all because he loves us, each one without exception and all of us together. Out of that unfailing love, he wants to raise us up, so that we stand tall, with an elegant poise, rejoicing in all we have been given. That is what we long for but find so elusive.
'At the time of his birth, Jesus was spoken of as "the rising Sun, come to visit us, to give light to those who live in darkness and to guide our feet into the way of peace." (Luke 1.78-79)
'Our darkness is real. Our longing is clear. May this coming of Christ give us fresh heart today and a flow of hope and peace for tomorrow. For this is the secret of Christmas.'