December/January Editorial – Let the Walls Fall

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As parish choirs rehearse ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’ and other sleepy carols to comfort and warm the heart at Christmas time, the sad, modern-day reality of Christ’s birthplace and its present-day inhabitants, who now live in the shadow of a giant wall with barbed wire and boulders, should not be forgotten. While from Berlin to Belfast many modern barriers were constructed to either contain, divide or defend, the Bethlehem wall seems an especially potent, poignant symbol of humanity’s abysmal failure to respond to the message of Christmas.

The Prince of Peace came to tear down the walls of hatred and division, to open our eyes to the common humanity that we share, to challenge the cynic, the sceptic and the world-weary like Ecclesiastes, that a better way can be found – that there is something new under the sun.

Some say that Charles Dickens and Coca Cola are responsible for the festive season of chubby cheerfulness now called Xmas. Dickens, at least through his immortal Ebenezer Scrooge, upheld the possibility of re-birth and renewal through his Christmas tale, that the past did not have to dictate the future, that change was possible.

In his poem ‘Christmas Eve Remembered’, Patrick Kavanagh spoke of the poor, the young and the old whose lives were hard but hope certain; ‘For one in Bethlehem has kept their dreams safe for them.’ The hopes and fears of all the years, as the carol says, that turned people’s minds to Bethlehem in times past should continue to point us there even in its present sad condition. Walls fall as they did in Berlin and Belfast. There is a light here that the darkness cannot overpower.

Peace and joy be yours this Christmas time.

Father Paul Clayton-Lea


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