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2021 Christmas Message by Bishop Julius Gitom

Isaiah 9:6-7

For to us, a child is born, to us a son is given … And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace… He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ

This is the second consecutive year that the celebration of Christmas, the birth of Jesus Christ our Saviour, is being reshaped by safety restrictions for the COVID-19.

This does not mean that the celebration of Christmas is less meaningful. We celebrate our faith in God who has sent his Son into the world to save us! Thus, despite all the restrictions, we celebrate Christmas meaningfully, joyfully with family, community and friends.

However, since we are not out of the woods yet, and there is a great concern over COVID-19 “omicron variant”, which is said to be more transmissible. As such, it is sensible that those attending Mass in person are fully vaccinated, and community and family celebrations must be SOP compliant.

This year’s Christmas definitely will be more significant after we have gone through two years of undergoing hardship and uncertainties in our lives. These experiences have taught us to be in solidarity with all people amidst the difficult situations as the coronavirus pandemic.

On this blessed day, when the Word of God became flesh, we naturally focus our attention on the child Jesus with affective emotion. The experience of Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem was intimately connected with every couple’s experience; the greatest joy in life is the birth of a child. This is another reason for us to share our joy with people around us as Christ is also born in our hearts and our family.

But God’s son came not just to reconcile human beings with God, He also came to bring peace to all creation. Let us turn our attention to what Pope Francis said in his Christmas message last year “At this moment in history, marked by the ecological crisis and grave economic and social imbalances only worsened by the coronavirus pandemic, it is all the more important for us to acknowledge one another as brothers and sisters” (Urbi et Orbi  2020).

This ecological crisis is real and has already reached a critical stage. This year we have witnessed extreme weather conditions in many parts of the world, droughts in some parts of Africa, the worst of floods in many parts of Europe and elsewhere. Even in Sabah, we have seen mud flood in Kg Sugud in Penampang, and heavy rain causing flood and landslide in some other areas.

This climate change is the result of unabated human activities in the name of development for many years. The earth is crying in anguish, but do we listen to the cry of our mother earth?

The people who are paying the most as a consequence are the poorest in the world. We have already heard it said many times that ‘the cry of the poor is the cry of our mother Earth.’

Pope Francis reminds us “All of us living creatures are dependent on one another. We have to re-think the future of our common home and our common project. If we destroy creation, creation will destroy us.”

As we celebrate the birth of our Saviour, let us be inspired to do something good for our mother Earth as the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us “God wills the interdependence of creatures, the sun and the moon, the cedar and the little flower, the eagle and the sparrow; the spectacle of their countless diversities and inequalities tells us that no creature is self-sufficient. Creatures exist only in dependence on each other, to complete each other, in the service of each other.” (CCC 340).

With Jesus born in our hearts, let us be the sign of hope, as a Christmas gift, not only to our family and neighbor, but also to our future generations, by ensuring justice to all creation so that our mother Earth continues to be livable.

For us Christian, Christmas offers us much hope for a better future because God is with us. We are in unusually troubled times, exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. But God is journeying with us, leading us forward and He will deliver us. It is in Him we place our hope and our trust.

Wising you all a truly grace-filled Christmas and a Happy New Year 2022!

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