In his message for Christmas and the New Year, Monsignor Eamon Martin, Diocesan Administrator, Diocese of Derry, says:
“I heard they’ve found an ancient Christian Bell down in Shantallow. It dates back to the early 15th century and probably belonged to the Cistercian nuns. They had a chapel somewhere near where Galliagh is today. I can just imagine that bell ringing out on Christmas morning seven hundred years ago, and the holy sisters chanting: ‘Today a saviour has been born for us; he is Christ the Lord’.
One of my favourite carols is ‘Ding Dong Merrily on High - in Heaven the Bells are ringing’. They’re ringing because it’s Christmas time. They’re ringing to celebrate the greatest miracle of all - that God came and lived among us!
The Christmas message is the most powerful message of hope that the world has ever known. God intervened in history to show that nothing can ever come between us and his love and that, no matter what life throws at us, there’s a reason to live; a reason to hope.
I know that some of you have strong faith and hope in God. But there are times when all of us find it difficult to believe. Maybe disappointment or sadness has knocked us back, or sickness, or bereavement. I pray that God will enlighten our minds this Christmas so that we can see the hope that his call holds for us - personally.
Christmas is a family time. But I’m very conscious this year of many homes where pressures on family life have never been greater.
I know families who are worried about debt, or unemployment, or even if they’ll make it through Christmas in one piece. Financial worries can put huge strains on relationships and create a lot of tension and conflict in the home. I encourage you, then, to make some special time this Christmas for your family and loved ones. I invite you to put your trust in God, to pray together and go to your Church on Christmas Day.
Christmas is a time for giving. But in difficult financial times it’s important to remember that it’s not the cost of a gift that matters, but the spirit in which it is given.
Maybe the greatest gift we can give is the gift of our time and attention to someone else. Material gifts will soon be forgotten, but time spent with a person, showing that you care for them and value them, can mean a lot and leaves lasting memories.
That’s what the incarnation was all about. God who is love, chose to spend time with us. He valued and cared for us so much that he gave the gift of his only Son to be our Saviour. That’s why we have reason to hope even when times are tough. And that’s why all the bells in heaven ring on Christmas day in the morning. May the holy child of Bethlehem bless you and your family with peace and hope.”