The Right Rev Ken Good, Church of Ireland Bishop of Derry and Raphoe the Most Rev Donal McKeown, Roman Catholic Bishop of Derry, have issued a joint Christmas message this year.
In it they speak of the difficulties that many face, how this can test faith, and they go on to call on people to put others’ needs first.
“The harsh realities of life for many in today’s world raise big questions about the meaning and purpose of it all. A world in which too many have to contend with poverty, with homelessness and loneliness; where many live with dangerous political uncertainty and where, for large numbers, refugee status far from home is their lot.
“Harsh realities such as these can lead us to the conclusion that life is not only unfair, but that it must be random, haphazard and aimless,” they said.
“The birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, we want to suggest, throws fresh light on these big questions and on these bleak conclusions, and raises an entirely different and more hopeful interpretation of life.
“God’s initiative and his decisive intervention in this world through the life (and death) of Jesus Christ reveals the possibility that there is, in fact, meaning and direction to it all; there is a loving and purposeful mind behind it all.
“Furthermore, the way in which those remarkable events transpired in Bethlehem suggest that, in God’s chosen means of intervention into this broken world, this child, himself, embraced the harsh realities of poverty, homelessness, political intrigue and refugee status in his first few weeks on earth,” the Bishops said, adding: “The pattern demonstrated by each of the central participants of the remarkable Bethlehem event was one of selfless concern for ‘the other’, rather than selfish focus on themselves. Not only Jesus, but Mary and Joseph, too, accepted personal vulnerability and disadvantage for themselves so that others might be blessed.”
They added: “God’s initiative in Bethlehem and the human response of those involved, can inspire in us today an understanding of life which is purposeful and loving, and can lead us to play our part in working courageously and compassionately to deal effectively with poverty, hunger, homelessness, loneliness and need of any kind.”