Christianity: the very faith and moral path which has shaped our way of life.
This is Bishop Mark Davies homily from Midnight Mass taken from the diocesan website:
On Christmas morning, church bells will ring out across this land announcing anew the birth of a Child in Bethlehem: the Saviour who was born for us, Christ the Lord (Luke 2:11). This is news of great joy to be shared by all people; and the bright sound of those bells brings this joyful announcement to everyone, whatever their situation in life. Christianity is not a cold theory or moralism: it is a message of joy and hope for all humanity, in Saint Paul’s words: “God’s grace has been revealed, and has made salvation possible for the whole human race” (Titus 2:11). At the end of 2016, amid the many shadows and uncertainties in our world, Christmas once more announces the glory of God in whom is found indestructible goodness and truth.
However, there has been a danger of a strange silence falling over our land which has recently led the Prime Minister to urge Christians never to be afraid of speaking freely in the public space. She insisted that our Christian heritage is something of which everyone can be proud, and Christians must ‘jealously guard’ their right to speak publically about their faith. The Prime Minister is doubtless conscious of the strange phenomenon of local authorities and public bodies who fear that even to mention the word ‘Christmas’ might be a cause of offence. Somewhat more sinisterly, people tell me how they have felt inhibited or even intimidated in their places of work when speaking of their Christian faith and how it shapes their conscience and values. In a country founded on the Christian faith, it is a terrible perversion of political correctness that would so intimidate people from speaking of Christianity: the very faith and moral path which has shaped our way of life. It is the joy which Christmas announces.
In 2017, as we seek a new place in the world and an identity transcending any shallow nationalism, it is surely this Christian heritage that can again securely found our values and light the way for the future of our society. If the Christian voice were silenced in the public square and Christianity no longer shaped our laws, what would be left to uphold our human rights and dignity? “Be not afraid” was the message given to the shepherds on the first Christmas night (Luke 2:10). This is the new courage the Gospel offers everyone. May we too, like the shepherds, never be afraid to speak of what the Lord has made known to us and of the joy it brings.
When the Earl of Shrewsbury first commissioned the building of a new Catholic Cathedral on the town walls of Shrewsbury, he intended that his famous architect, Augustus Pugin, would construct a great bell tower. Its bells would have complemented others across the town, both ancient and new. In the end, the site only allowed a single bell to ring. A single bell which may serve to remind us that we have each been given a voice which we can use for the good; a voice that can be raised with both confidence and respect, as we share with our contemporaries the hope found in the birth of a Child in Bethlehem. May 2017 hear Christian voices being raised as clearly and brightly as the bells ringing out so happily each Christmas morning!
Bishop of Shrewsbury