FROM ARCHBISHOP KEITH PATRICK O'BRIEN
PRESIDENT OF THE BISHOPS' CONFERENCE OF SCOTLAND.
It is some 57 years now since the end of the Second World War. I myself barely remember Christmases during that time. But what I do remember is that my parents gave me every love and affection although my father was often away from home, as he served in the Royal Navy. For me, as a young boy growing up, it was almost as if there was no war taking place at all.
At this present time, we are frequently reminded of the war on terrorism, which affects us all. Obviously, some are affected more than others. In various parts of the world many have been killed and many more are still suffering and grieving. One has only to think of the disasters affecting the peoples in America, following on the events of 11 September 2001; of the tragedy in Bali and the peoples affected there and in Australia; of Mombasa in Kenya and the African and Jewish peoples affected by that tragedy; as well as many other peoples throughout the world.
However, for us, life continues as normal and this particular war does not affect us in any serious way at all, as yet. Like myself, at the time of the Second World War, it is almost as if there is no war taking place at all. We must however be aware of the ongoing suffering in other parts of the world and of the many who are grieving at this present time. Further wars and rumours of wars abound we must be alert to the possibilities of increased conflagrations at this present time.
There is also another war which does affects us all at this present time the war on secularism. One has only to realise how the spending period of Christmas is extending week by week, one has only to look into the packed shop windows and read the newspaper adverts or television shows about providing more and more for Christmas, to realise that secularism does indeed affects each and every one of us. This was vividly brought home for me when looking at the entry of one child into a Christmas card competition. On the front of the card was a Christmas tree. Beside it there was a pile of coloured boxes, each one obviously filled with a present and this mountain of gifts was as high as the Christmas tree! There was no sign at all of what is the real meaning of Christmas, nor is there such a sign in many of our shops or cards.
At this Christmas time, when there is so much thought given to others in various ways, I would ask each one of you to make some assault on the ongoing growth of secularism in our society. We all value our homes and our families. I ask you to show your appreciation of your home life by strengthening that life and love in every way possible.
'Home' was important for Jesus. As we know, Mary and Joseph had difficulty in finding him a home when he was due to be born. As he grew up, he found time to relax in the home of many of his followers, sharing with them and giving them inspiration. One of the last things he did as he was dying on the cross, was to ask John, the beloved disciple, to provide a home for his mother, Mary.
At this time, Jesus is looking for a home among us and within each one of us. At Christmas he asks us that we allow him to live up to the name given to him by the angel: Immanuel, a name which means Å’God is with us'.
I do pray that our homes be places of peace and harmony at this time. It is wonderful to be able to be happy and relax in the midst of family and friends, along with old and young. As we give to one another, let us remember those whom no one will give to and those who have no homes. God is with us in Christ and God is with us in those around us, especially those who are suffering in any way.
May God bless each one of you at this time and help you to realise that God is indeed with you.
+ Keith Patrick
Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh
President of Bishops' Conference of Scotland