Archbishop_Scicluna-345x300Sunday, December 27, 2015,
My reflections on Christmas
by Archbishop Charles Scicluna

In the week before Christmas I make it a point to attend ‘The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols’ service by the Anglican Church in Malta and Gozo. It is an extraordinary moment of prayer with the most beautiful carols that make Christmas the beautiful feast we all enjoy.

‘The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols’ was first held on Christmas Eve 1918, at King’s College, Cambridge. According to the programme notes distributed at Holy Trinity Church, Sliema, last Monday, this festival was planned by Eric Milner-White as an advent carol service. During the meditation I thought about the Year of Mercy we are in and that the message of Christmas is intrinsically linked with the mercy of God. Pope Francis says the mercy of God was made visible and tangible in the mystery of the Son of God becoming man and dwelling among us.

As we look at the Baby in the manger at Bethlehem, we gaze at the mercy of God. As we dwell on the word ‘mercy’, I would like to suggest some reflections on these five letters that make up the word and link every letter to aspects of the Christmas season we are living through at this time of the year.

‘M’ stands for the Messiah, the promised one, the anointed, the one who is King, prophet and priest. ‘M’ stands for Mary his mother, and in her we admire the gift of motherhood and pray for all mothers, especially those who need support and a loving embrace, those who miss their children, and those who are longing for them. ‘M’ stands for the Magi, those wise men who, led by a star, left everything in search of a baby, who were not duped by Herod and who brought gifts to the family of Nazareth. ‘M’ stands for all people of goodwill who search for the truth and those who intercede for us that we may find the truth in the baby in the manger. ‘M’ stands for mirth and for myrrh, for this life is a mixture of happiness and sorrow. As the Lord brings lots of happiness with his birth, we also see the gift of myrrh in remembrance of his mortal human nature. ‘M’ stands for the meekness of the manger that remains the most eloquent of messages to mankind.
Mercy is the gateway to the true experience of Christmas

‘E’ stands for Emmanuel, the name of Jesus given in the prophecy of Isaiah and confirmed in the gospel of Matthew. ‘God is with us’, the Emmanuel who dwells and pitches up his tent on Earth and blesses the environment with his divine blessing and embrace. It stands for us a moment of elation, of true evangelisation, because it is a message of good news that harkens the heralds, the coming of the true King of peace: “Glory to God and peace on earth to men of goodwill”.

‘R’ stands for the Redeemer. We all need redemption if we have the humility to recognise that we are sinners who need lifting up. We also yearn for a better life, for serenity, for reconciliation, for renewal and righteousness. We all yearn for righteousness but are made righteous through the mercy of God. We look at baby Jesus and bathe in his radiance. We do not feel rejected but feel we are welcomed into the loving heart of God.

‘C’ stands for the crib, the place where God made man appears to humankind. From the crib a message of comfort and joy extends to all creation, a message of communion between the divine and the human, a message of consolation to all creation: the Christ child is a message of true comfort, of true hope.

‘Y’ stands for Yuletide, the old pagan festival baptised to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. It stands for the great mission given to all believers in Jesus: “Go to the world and baptise in the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”. It is a response to a deep human yearning, a yearning for perpetual youth, perpetual energy. It is a yearning to become a foretaste of eternity, of an existence without years, of heaven.

Mercy is the gateway to the true experience of Christmas, to the peace, compassion and solidarity which express this great mystery.

Let us pray that, at this present time, when the world is tempted to resort to violence in the face of terror, we may have the strength to show mercy and to forgive.

Mgr Charles Scicluna is the Archbishop of Malta.