Archbishop’s Christmas Message

Tuesday December 22nd 2009

In his Christmas message, the Archbishop of Armagh states that in wishing ‘Happy Christmas’ let us also offer practical and moral support, human solidarity, compassion and empathy.

The Most Rev Alan Harper, OBE, said 2009 had been a difficult year for very many.

“Recently, for example, I have spoken to owners of local businesses distressed at having to make loyal employees redundant. Seeing at first hand the distress of employers I can hardly imagine the extent of the fear of those employees made redundant and their families. Some of the banks that were bailed out with billions of pounds of public money in order to maintain a system intended to provide appropriate credit in support of business are in some instances cruelly penalizing the businesses of reliable clients. I have also heard the tragic stories of people flooded out of their homes or driven from farms and businesses by rising flood waters. Livelihoods and the hopes and dreams of good people have been swept away by a deluge of biblical proportions.

“It is inevitable that in such circumstances some declare that a greeting of “Happy Christmas!” is unfeeling or inappropriate. However, I think we need to hear the salutation and with it see evidence that those who say it mean it.

“So, in wishing people a “Happy Christmas” let all of us also offer practical and moral support, human solidarity, compassion and empathy. May the banks offer their customers sensitive, personal consideration and support; may those made redundant find a swift return to employment; may farmers whose land will lie under water for many weeks to come find government sympathetic and committed to sustaining a viable rural economy; may flooded householders find the insurance industry helpful and government committed to the construction of appropriate flood defences and to deploying sensible planning controls; and may we as  peoples from all the nations be committed to the environmental sustainability of our planet.

“Most importantly, in wishing each other “Happy Christmas” can we think about the Holy One, who shared the human condition to the extent of being a homeless refugee. “Happy Christmas” from the one who fed the hungry, healed the sick, restored the lame and the blind and the deaf. “Happy Christmas” from the one who comforted the widow, raised the dead and gave new opportunities to children, women and beggars, being respectful of them and taking them seriously. “Happy Christmas” from the one who rehabilitated even the tax gathering agents of an occupying power and who told the story of what could be done by the sensible use of the multiple talents of money made available by the King if put to work instead of being buried in the ground. “Happy Christmas” from the God of love who cares for all his children and strives mightily to make all of us better stewards of his gifts.  Don’t be afraid to say “Happy Christmas!” and to mean it and to make it real and true by following the teaching and example of the Holy One whose coming we are right to celebrate with joy, expectation and renewed commitment.”

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