Wednesday’s edition of Cathnews published links to the Christmas Messages of our Australian Bishops. I wish I could print out my favourites for those of you without internet as there are absolute gems in there. But I will make do with an excerpt from Archbishop Tim Costelloe’s message and Bishop Vincent Long’s message in its entirety, but do try to read another favourite, Archbishop Mark Coleridge (Brisbane), it’s a rallying cry to our hearts. Remember, read them slowly and read them without distractions or their message may get lost. Archbishop Tim Costelloe writes: “I hope we all find some time to sit quietly gazing at our Christmas crib at home or the Christmas crib in our church and reflect on the extraordinary wonder of God‘s love, tenderness and care for us. May that helpless baby lying in the manger prompt us to look for God even in the most unlikely places. God is waiting to be found somewhere along the journey of each day. My prayer for us all this Christmas is that the Lord will open our eyes to recognise him when he comes to us and open our hearts to welcome him with joy.’ From Bishop Vincent Long (Parramatta): Dear sisters and brothers in Christ, Each Christmas season we are asked to hear liberating Good News. God has joined himself to us inseparably! When Mary gives birth to Jesus our Saviour, the ‘overshadowing’ presence of God is now fully revealed in a precious child. God loves us so much that He becomes one of us! And yet we all struggle with false images and representations of God. Too often they prevent us from seeing the real God at work in our lives. As Les Murray, the great Australian poet once wrote in The Boys Who Stole the Funeral, a dead World War I digger cries out, “The true God gives his flesh and blood. Idols demand yours off you.” Yes, we can all actually make things difficult for ourselves and others, by not properly appreciating the depths of our own faith. Too often, we substitute the wondrous and life-giving mystery of God with something (an idol) that diminishes us. This Advent our vision of Christ needs to expand. Let’s especially remember God’s closeness to us and our responsibility to become peacemakers. In this season of peace and goodwill we see our God reduced to the most vulnerable of creatures; another little Middle Eastern boy caught up in homelessness, poverty and a cruel cycle of violence. He gave up everything in order to become one with us. You cannot get closer than that! He comes to us, and stays with us, especially in times of difficulty and loneliness. We might say that Christmas is the feast of‘closeness’. It is the time when family and friends who are separated – by geography, by hurt or anger, or simply by the distances created by time – come together again to celebrate this joyous feast and to renew their bonds with one another and, we hope, with Christ. Christmas reunions can be wonderful. They can also open old wounds and bring back painful memories. To make Christmas joyful we must be able to forgive one another and let go of past injuries – real and imagined. We humans often struggle mightily our whole lives to really accept this Divine Love that gives itself so totally. But this is precisely the Good News of our Catholic faith. Our God becomes a tiny infant - fragile yet divine. May the Christ child bless you and your loved ones this Christmas 2020 and give you His strength and peace in the New Year ahead.