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By Reverend Roger Carr-Jones, Marriage and Family Life Coordinator, Diocese of Westminster

'I love you, Pop-Pop and Vovó!' (Portuguese for grandmother) said our two-year-old granddaughter at our most recent FaceTime conversation. After a year in which we have only briefly seen our three grandchildren and had to maintain social distancing, these three simple words reconnected us all as one. In our journey through Advent, we can sometimes overlook that it is the very small things that gladden our hearts and feed our journey to the manger. We should savour these and give thanks.

As we make our way to greet the Christ-child this Christmas, it is worth remembering that the Incarnation can best be summed up in those three words: 'I love you'. Faith does not need to be complex. It needs to be lived in relationship and this is why these three words transform life and our eternal destiny.

Once we can begin to reflect at a deeper level on these three words the whole nature of the Christian journey is transformed. We can love ourselves because God loved us first. In fact, it is only once we can express love for ourselves that we can learn to love another.

Each of us at some point will have rested in a crib, if not a manger, vulnerable and in need of love, care and attention. If we miss out on those three ingredients at an early age, or allow ourselves to become selfish with the passing of the years, it can be difficult to form healthy attachments. The same applies to faith.

God became flesh because he loves us. When we experience love it makes us vulnerable and open to rejection. At the same time, it is also transformative and life-giving. 'I love you' says the Christ-child to each of us, irrespective of the messiness of our lives. In expressing these words at the manger Jesus invites us to enter into the source of all love, the life of the Blessed Trinity.

This year we may not have the Christmas holiday, the gatherings, or the gifts that we desire. Instead, we are given each and every year the simple and profound gift of love.

This year has been one of uncertainty and profound change. How has it reshaped our attitudes and life of faith? How has the gentle breeze of the Spirit touched us in our fears, or enlivened us in our actions? Give thanks. As we begin to make our way to the manger this year what would we want to say, do or share with Jesus? Rest a while.

This year we might not feel safe or able to come to Church. If so, please remember that the Christ-child understands where we are and what we need. Those words, ‘I love you’, are always freely given and, if we allow, will fill up all the empty spaces in our hearts, home and world.

We will not be physically with our grandchildren this Christmas. Instead, at some point in the day, through to the wonders of technology, we will share a little time with them. It is not perfect, as we are created for love and need to express that love in person. Many will have a similar experience this year.

Just as the Christ-child makes room for us at the manger and willingly engages with us, we too must make space at our dinner table for the Christ. He will not mind whether the setting is perfect or chaotic. What matters is that, once he says, 'I love you', we in turn reply, 'I love you, too!'.

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