From December 17th the prayers and readings of the church turn towards the celebration of the birth of Jesus. During the first weeks of Advent our gaze is focused on the end of time, the second coming of the Lord, when everything will be completed.

Now our thoughts are centred on welcoming the birth of Jesus as a past event that has an impact on our personal lives, our community of faith and the world in which we live. This is the moment when we accept the victory of God’s love over all that is dark and difficult in human life.

We are stuck again and again at the simplicity of the circumstances of the birth of the saviour of the world, the door of the inn is shut against the virgin so close to delivering her child and with Joseph they explore instead the welcome of the stable, the straw lined manger and listen to the rejoicing of shepherds and the chorus of angels.

From such humble beginnings, the plan of God unfolded, the Son was sent to live among us and his teaching revealed the hope of God that he would bring all of creation into his kingdom. The poor will always be at the centre of the mystery of God’s entry into the world and welcomed at his table.

We have to find the essence of this story in our contemporary lives, with all complexities that we face personally and as a community. We have to believe that the call into the fullness of life will move our hearts, strengthen our resolve and deepen our faith.

Our 21st century faith is rooted in this ancient story, with its simple truth, bright light and broad reach. We receive this gift from God, whether we deserve it or not, as a sign of his unconditional love, and we respond with all our hearts, and all our minds and all our strength and life means so much more to us.