In a column on Advent which was published in the Mail on Sunday on 22 November last, Bishop Paul Dempsey of Achonry reflected on how this Christmas 2020 will be different to recent years.

Commenting on the nature of Covid-19 restrictions, Bishop Dempsey said, “Many are worried about how the restrictions will impinge on their experience of Christmas, traditionally a time marked by family gatherings, attendance at Christmas Mass, and many other rituals that make this time of year so special. I am contemplating a Christmas that will be different, but dare I say offers a unique opportunity.”

Bishop Dempsey emphasised the inevitable impact of Christmas on our lives, despite the fact that Ireland has become more secular than it once was. The Bishop of Achonry said, “Even though we live in a more secular society, nostalgia around Christmas may bring some of us to visit the Crib and gaze upon the scene, stirring emotion in our heart, but perhaps that is where it ends. As we walk away, we might forget that the baby in the crib did not remain there but grew up and challenged the world with a message that had the power to transform every heart, every life.

“Next weekend we begin the journey of Advent, a time of special preparation for the Lord’s coming at Christmas. Perhaps this year, above any other, we have the chance to reflect during these weeks on what Christmas and indeed Christianity really means to us.”

In conclusion, Bishop Dempsey encouraged the faithful to avail of this opportunity to reflect on a deeper level than might have been possible in Christmas periods gone by. “At the end of the Christmas season last year I came across a verse from Howard Thurman, it went; ‘When the song of the angels is stilled, when the star in the sky is gone, when the kings and princes are home, when the shepherds are back with their flocks, then the work of Christmas begins: to find the lost, to heal the broken, to feed the hungry, to release the prisoner, to rebuild the nations, to bring peace among the people, to make music in the heart.’

“Christmas is not about nostalgia for Christmases past. Christmas poses the real question of how we are living the message of Christ in our society, our parishes, our families… today!” Bishop Dempsey said.

ENDS