A friend was talking to me recently about the loss of their family dog, which had lived to the age of 18.
Bought as a puppy at Christmas time it brought much love and joy for so many years that, when he died it felt like a death in the family. Not all pets are as fortunate to find such a loving home. Animal charities can be inundated with unwanted puppies in the months after Christmas, perhaps overwhelmed by the responsibility that comes with keeping a pet.
Christmas, one of my favourite times of the year, is a time of rich traditions, memories and of great joy, because at its spiritual centre is the celebration of the birth of Jesus.
St Luke’s Gospel describes how the news of Jesus’s birth was given to the shepherds who feature in the nativity story. They were frightened when an angel appeared to them, but the angel reassured them, saying: “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.”
Suddenly a multitude of the heavenly host appeared, saying: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, good will toward men.”
In Jesus, we’ve been offered the gift of peace and the gift of good will. These two gifts are at the heart of our Christmas traditions and celebrations. His peace is perhaps the greatest gift we can receive. And good will is among the greatest gifts we can bestow on others.
These gifts aren’t just for Christmas, they’re for every day. Once the decorations have been put away and the Christmas tree has come down, let us pray that we continue to receive the gift of Christ’s peace each and every day of the year. And let us determine to give to others the gift of good will each and every day.
A very peaceful and happy Christmas to you all; and a very peaceful and happy New Year.
Rt Rev Ken Good
Bishop of Derry and