2020 has been an incredibly difficult and challenging year for all of us. Families have at times been restricted to celebrating the funeral of a loved one with a mere ten mourners present. Others have had to go months without being able to visit loved ones in nursing homes and care centres. Many in our community have been laid off and face an anxious and uncertain future. I mention what others have had to endure because it offers us, I believe, some perspective amidst the sadness and disappointment we feel at not being able to celebrate Christmas this year as we would like to. Yes, sadly, many of us will miss out on being with loved ones this year but at least we can look forward to seeing them again once all this is over. Yes, we may miss out on our traditional and much-loved celebrations and festivities but, please God, there will be other Christmases for us to enjoy. Likewise, our ability to celebrate Christmas as a parish community will be dramatically impacted upon this year but hopefully, it can still be a faithful, prayerful and meaningful time for all of us. But to do that we will have to be creative in how we ‘connect with’ and ‘tune into’ the true spirit and meaning of Christmas.
Restrictions on the numbers allowed at Mass mean that we will not be able to accommodate everyone who would normally wish to join us for Christmas Mass. Our Parish Assembly have worked incredibly hard to put together an expanded programme of Masses but we know that even this will only allow for a fraction of those who would wish to join us to do so. The HSE has advised parishes that anyone wishing to attend Christmas Mass should pre-register beforehand in order to ensure the safety of all. We invite those who wish to book a place at one of our Christmas Masses to do so next Sunday, 20th December, in that Church between 2.00 p.m. and 4.00 p.m. We regret that only those who have pre-registered can be admitted to our Christmas Masses because of the strict safety protocols that have to be adhered to.
So, this year we are appealing to you, our parishioners, to consider other creative ways to mark the birth of Jesus and, in so doing, to gift someone else the chance to avail of one on the limited spaces available at our Masses. For example, you might choose to:
- Join us as a family from the comfort of your home for our live-streamed Mass on Christmas Eve or on Christmas Morning.
- Visit the Crib as a family. A visit to the Crib can be far more special and meaningful for children than simply going to Mass. Share with them the wonder of Christmas or, better still, invite them to tell you the story with all of their unique embellishments! Make an afternoon of it and visit the beautiful crib in each of our four Churches. Who knows? It might be the start of a new Christmas tradition here in the Harbour.
- Reach out to a neighbour or relative who is alone this Christmas – a visit, a small gift, company for a little while, simple things that have the power to brighten someone else’s day. What better gift can we offer Christ, who said that what we do for those in need we do for him, than to do something kind for someone in need?
- Visit the Church for a quiet prayer in your own time. Light a candle for all those who cannot be with you this Christmas.
- Join us for Mass another day during the holidays and make that your Christmas Mass.
- Or, as you sit down to Christmas Dinner, take a moment to say Grace as a family in order to give thanks, to remember loved ones or to ask a blessing.
Whether we get to Christmas Mass or not this year is in the greater scheme of things not what matters most. In some ways going to Mass is easy! Finding other ways to keep Christ at the heart of Christmas is a far greater challenge and can be just as much an expression and a celebration of our faith. It calls for creativity and imagination, faith and initiative, gifts we have all shown we are capable of during this year when we have had to find new ways of doing so many things. We have done it all year. We can do it for Christmas! Hopefully, as this most extraordinary of years draws to a close, we can all find our own way to share in the song of the angels, the joy of the shepherds and the worship of the wise men and so experience afresh the wonder of our God who comes to us.
Wherever and however, you choose to celebrate Christmas, we wish you and your loved ones every blessing. Fr Seán & Fr Con