As 2021 draws to a close, we have reached that time of year when we begin to look back.
Over the next four weeks, in the Bible readings of the season of Advent we are encouraged to reflect on an ‘unprecedented’ event which happened 2000 years ago.
Legend has it that on that first Christmas night the temperatures dropped in Bethlehem, and the air became bitterly cold. The small fire that burned in the middle of the stable was nearly out.
Joseph had gone to find firewood but Mary began to worry as the baby Jesus shivered in her arms. Suddenly she heard the fluttering of wings and looking up, she saw a small, plain, brown-coloured bird fly into the stall. The bird hovered directly over to the dying fire and began to flap his wings hard. They acted like little bellows, puffing air onto the embers, until they began to glow red again.
Then with his beak, the bird began picking up dry sticks and dropping them into the fire. As he did, a flame leapt up and burned the little bird’s breast bright red. However, he continued to feed the fire until it crackled brightly and warmed the entire stable. Mary thanked the robin and promised that his red breast would be a reminder of how his selfless act saved the baby Jesus.
Jesus’ arrival, or advent, had been dreamed about for centuries, as revealed in this Bible reading by prophet Isaiah, written 700 years before the first Christmas.
‘The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; on those who live in a land of deep shadow a light has shone… For there is a child born for us, a son given to us, and authority is laid on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.’
Jesus has inspired billons of others to bring light to the world too. Look at the many people in our own city of Newry who willingly give their own free time to help those who are in need, who feed and clothe the homeless, visit the housebound or support those suffering with mental health or addiction problems.
The legend of the robin teaches us a valuable lesson. The smallest act of kindness can make a huge difference. Could you provide a listening ear for someone who is anxious or distressed, visit a sick or elderly neighbour, write a letter or card that will bring comfort to someone who is lonely or perhaps you could give up some of your free time to help a local charity or volunteer in your church?
What will you do to fan the flame of hope this Advent?
Newry Cathedral Parish Giving Tree for SVP will be placed at the front of the Cathedral on the 4th December. There will be opportunities for parishioners to gift toys/ gift vouchers and help families with fuel over the Christmas period. Due to rising prices many more people are living in poverty and your help will be greatly appreciated.