.- Christmas cards by the sackful come pouring into my house and the office from family and friends, members of the diocese and representatives of Church and state. And of course they are also going out by the sackful!
We all experience something similar at this time of year. We receive and we send cards. It is a lovely time to be greeting one another. The birthday of Christ is a birthday for us all, and we exchange birthday presents.
The shepherds took their lambs and Magi their princely gifts. The best we have to offer the Lord is the love in our hearts, love in exchange for love. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only son.”
So many of our cards illustrate the Christmas scene: Mary and Joseph, the child in the manger, the ox and the ass (St. Francis's addition to the biblical scene), the shepherds and the magi - the work of great artists, and of little children. How many tellings of the story!
Yet at the center there is always this baby, and to think that God entered human history in this way, as a child in the manger! The fact is that God loves us beyond our wildest expectations, and enters our life in the humblest of circumstances, and does so that we might share His life who shares our human condition.
This is the substance of our Christian hope; the hope of which Pope Benedict has written so eloquently in his second letter to the whole Church since becoming Pope. The title - Spe Salvi - expresses in Latin St. Paul's assertion that we are saved by hope.
The Holy Father offers a consoling image of the life that awaits us with God, and urges us not to be afraid of death. “The way we live our lives is not immaterial, but our defilement does not stain us for ever if we have at least continued to reach out towards Christ, towards truth and towards love. Indeed, that stain of sin has already been burned away through Christ's Passion. We experience the overwhelming power of His love over all the evil in the world and in ourselves. The pain of love becomes our salvation and our joy” (Spe Salvi, 47).
And that salvation and joy is, as the angels sang at that first Christmas, intended for all people. No one is excluded from this joy, said St. Gregory the Great.
And so it is that I wish all of you the joy of Christmas, in the knowledge of God's love for you revealed in the child of Bethlehem.
Yours devotedly in Christ
Archbishop of Glasgow