Greetings of Peace and Joy on this Christmas Day.

In churches, in families and in some public spaces there will be a Nativity scene telling the story of that first Christmas night. Our minds and hearts will be drawn to Bethlehem the birthplace of Jesus, prince of peace. This year as we gather around the crib, let us be mindful of the people of Bethlehem and all those places in our world where conflict reigns rather than peace.

On that first Christmas night, the angels appeared to the shepherds proclaiming: “Glory to God in the Highest and Peace to people of goodwill”.  Let the desire for peace in our world and in our communities be at the heart of our Christmas celebrations this year. In a world where we hear so many stories of violence and hate, let us take time to pray the words in the prayer of St Francis “Make me a channel of Your peace. Where there is hatred let me bring love”.

Christmas is a time when we listen to the invitation to be peacemakers and to hear in the words of the prophet Zechariah “guide our feet into the way of peace”. (Lk 1:79)

We know too that this Christmas, people are struggling in so many ways and so we are called to sow seeds of hope. Even amidst the difficulties, people recall the true meaning of the Christmas that our Emmanuel God is with us in the generous gestures of love, joy and peace through the simple words of welcome, the smile of a child in a war-torn reality, and the birth of a new baby.

Recently I attended a meeting of Leaders of Religious Institutes in Rome on the theme Synodality – A Renewed Call to the Prophecy of Hope. In one session, Fr Miguel in sharing where he sees ‘seeds of hope’ in his community, spoke of the children of Syria playing on the tree amid rubble, and of two Sisters in the Philippines remaining hope-filled after having been imprisoned. His images of smiling faces and his sharing moved me deeply.

Henry Thurman reminds us in his poem, The Work of Christmas Begins, that the real work of Christmas is about bringing hope to the lost, broken-hearted, and lost in a world that yearns to bring peace among peoples. (Howard Thurman, The Mood of Christmas (Harper and Row, 1973, p. 10–11, 23)

As we celebrate the gift of the Christ child, let each one take care of the seed of hope entrusted to you. Nurture it and help it grow so that you may truly become instruments of peace.

May the peace, joy and love of Christmas be with you and your loved ones this Christmas Day.

Sr Monica Cavanagh rsj
Congregational Leader