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10-FR-JAMIE

A Christmas gift that can’t be ordered on Amazon

This time of year is a great opportunity for evangelisation as people return to church, writes Fr Jamie McMorrin

A few months into my first assignment as a priest, I remember going for dinner at around this time of year to the house of an old friend.

She and her husband have three children, all under five. As they greeted me at the door and asked how my week had been, I told them that I was ‘exhausted.’

With a sleep-deprived, slightly murderous look in her eye and more restraint than I myself could have mustered in her position, my host (who, let’s not forget, had just prepared a delicious meal for me) gently reminded me that priests don’t have a monopoly on Christmas busyness.

I try to bear that experience in mind when the hundredth person that day says to me, ‘this must be a busy time of year for you, father.’

Although my temptation is always to nod in agreement, with a brave, stoic smile, the truth is that Christmas is a busy, demanding and stressful time of year for lots of people.

 

Hard at work

I wonder if, in fact, we priests have it relatively easy with some extra mid-week Masses, a couple of parish parties and a few more hours of confessions.

The truth is, actually, that I love this time of year. I love the nativity plays and the excitement of the children, I love the carols and the Mass by candlelight, I love the trees and the decorations, the cards and the presents.

The kitchen table in cathedral house is already groaning with cakes and bottles that generous parishioners have handed in, and every day the postman brings another stack of cards with heartfelt messages of appreciation, daily reminders of the goodness and the love of our people. I think I speak for all priests in saying how grateful we are for these.

But if you’re still looking for gift ideas to warm your parish priest’s heart this Christmas, the best present you could give him would be your generosity towards the Lord.

 

Evangelisation

Make a good confession, attend Mass and bring others along with you, and you’ll give your priest a gift that can’t be ordered on Amazon and yet which will do more than anything else to affirm him in his priesthood and convince him that his life is not being spent in vain.

Because Christmas is a tremendous opportunity for evangelisation. Our churches are filled at this time of year with people who are there ‘for one night only!’

Of course, they come for all sorts of reasons: some to please a spouse or a parent, some to fulfil a long-standing family custom, some simply because they like the quaint charm of a traditional Christmas.

But, from the perspective of God’s providence, the real reason they come—the real reason they were born! — is to hear the Good News of His love for them.

This Good News is meant for all, but it’s meant in particular for those for whom this time of year is especially difficult.

It’s for those for whom this time of year is dark and cold and lonely, bringing with it memories of departed loved ones, broken relationships and a sense, not of peace and goodwill, but of hurt, of failure and of disappointment.

 

Love for all

Our job as priests is, like the Virgin Mary, to hold out the love of Jesus Christ to all those who find their way, through the darkness and the busyness, to the ‘stable door’ of our churches.

To welcome them, even if they don’t really know why they’re there, even if they don’t know the responses very well, even if we’ve never seen them before and, in all probability, we won’t see them again until next Christmas.

To announce to them the message of the angels, that a child has been born for us and for our salvation, that God has visited his people and there’s no need to be afraid.

I’ve still got plenty to do to get ready for the big day. There are housebound parishioners to be visited, confessions to be heard, homilies to be written.

There are still presents to be wrapped, cards to be posted and, God help us, a crib scene to be assembled. But I hope that Christmas day will find me ready, not only to welcome Christ into my life and into my heart in a new way, but also to be ready to share him with others.

To bring the warmth of his love, the light of his truth and the hope of his promises to all those with whom I’ll share these coming celebrations: my family, my friends, my parishioners and all the anonymous strangers who will find their way to the manger.

May God bless all of them — and all of you who read these words—with a peaceful, joyful and very merry Christmas!

 

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