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Wrong to believe that joy has been banished from the holy lands, indeed, that joy has been expelled from the face of the earth

The truth of Christmas is what must fashion reality

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In his Christmas message, Bishop Peter Collins proclaims the peace and joy that not only endures but can, and will, ultimately triumph over all adversity

At the Christmas Vigil Mass we listen to Matthew’s account of how Joseph, the man of honour, was addressed in a dream by an angel of the Lord, who said: “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because she has conceived what is in her by the Holy Spirit.”

At the Christmas Midnight Mass, we listen to Luke’s account of the birth of Jesus at Bethlehem in Judea, we listen to the proclamation delivered by a chorus of angels to the shepherds: “Today in the town of David, a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.”

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On Christmas morning we listen to the prologue of John’s gospel: “the Word was made flesh, He lived among us, and we saw His glory. The glory that is His as the only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth.”

At Christmas, our voices harmonise with the chorus of angels as we sing: “glory to God in the highest heaven and peace to all people who enjoy His favour.”

At Christmas we are all called upon to undertake the pilgrimage to Bethlehem, at least spiritually, recalling that moment in history when Jesus Christ was born within the confines of the humblest environment, a stable.

Inhospitable location 

This seemingly inhospitable location drew its warmth from the love emanating from its newly arrived tenants and from the breath of the animals whose home it truly was.

As soon as the child Jesus is born, He becomes subject immediately to the threat of violence, for earthly powers, driven by sinful jealousies and conditioned by unjust practice, conspire to suppress the truth that is now fully revealed.

At Christmas, the truth is not merely proclaimed with words, the truth is the Word made flesh, the truth is born into our midst, the truth becomes embedded in our very flesh, so that we can be set free from sin and fear.

As Pope St Leo the Great declared: “nobody is an outsider to this happiness.”

Following the terrorist atrocities perpetrated by Hamas in southern Israel on October 7 and the subsequent destructive invasion of Gaza by Israeli forces, we could be forgiven for thinking that joy has been banished from the holy lands, indeed, that joy has been expelled from the face of the earth.

However, at Christmas we proclaim the joy that not only endures, but can, and will ultimately triumph over all adversity.

Our duty to address a world in chaos

We each have a duty to address a world in chaos with the message of joy and peace, the peace that is built upon the foundations of justice, the peace that can only be fashioned by truth itself.

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The truth of Christmas is no distraction from reality.

The truth of Christmas is what must fashion reality.

With full vigour we sing in harmony with the angels: “glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace to all people who enjoy his favour.” Let every human being acknowledge, and respect, the dignity of every other human being.

We believe and proclaim that this insight, this commitment, is ultimately granted in and through the truth incarnate, the person of Jesus Christ.

I have recently celebrated my first anniversary as Bishop of East Anglia. Since last Christmas I have rejoiced in the warmth of your welcome and in the substance of your prayerful support for my episcopal ministry.

I rejoice now to invite you all to undertake your own pilgrimage to the stable once again, to make your way to the crib, to make your way to the Christ, who is the light in the midst of all darkness.

Neither the wiles of the enemy, nor the barbarism of human sin, can diminish, yet alone extinguish, the light of the world. Bring nothing but the gift of yourself and discover the one who makes a gift of Himself to one and all, who sacrificed Himself for the salvation of the world.

Those who have no home

As I impart my blessing to each of you, to every home, I am so conscious of those who have no home.

As we celebrate the Christmas feast, in the name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, let us commit ourselves to search for those who are lost, to search for those who are exiled.

Let us play our part in leading all our brothers and sisters to the homeland of peace.

A happy Christmas to you all.

Bishop Peter Collins was ordained as the fifth Bishop of East Anglia on December 14, 2022

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