The Most Reverend Dr Robin Eames, Archbishop of Armagh, Primate of All-Ireland
The Christian message of Christmas speaks of joy, hope, peace and confidence.
Those words have become synonymous over the years with the pleas for peace and stability in Northern Ireland. We have prayed for joy and confidence across the traditional boundaries of our community : we have desperately sought for reasons of hope in the darkness of our divisions and we have prayed for a peace which would last. They are also words which speak to the basic longings of society throughout Ireland, north and south.
The birth of Christ brings all those longings together in the divine moment of God's intervention in the affairs of this world. The innocence of those first cries of a vulnerable baby seem far away from the uncertainties of a divided community an island of need as well as plenty. They seem far away from the profound anguish of the wider world a world facing the threat of war, a world of starvation and poverty and a world in which the innocence of children is constantly abused. They seem far away from the secular 'spend spend' madness of these days before Christmas.
Yet the eternal truth of the Christian message of Bethlehem calls us back to the basic facts which can make sense out of it all. Those characteristics of the best that human nature can grasp - love, truth, understanding and compassion those are the basics upon which the best of life depends. Above and beyond the least which life presents the Babe of Bethlehem calls us to find a dimension to our lives when good is stronger than evil, compassion stronger than selfishness and love stronger than hatred.
That is the hope Christians are called to welcome this Christmas and are called to share with the world.
There is so much to be thankful for in Ireland this Christmas. But there is so much which calls for our compassion, courage and vision. The stable at Bethlehem is a reminder that to gaze in wonder is one thing to respond to the wonder in lives of love and outreach across our community is a moral imperative for those who hear the words:
"Emmanuel - God with us"