A Christmas Homily.

The word “Emmanuel” means GOD IS WITH US.

When I lived and worked on the Falls Road in Belfast from 1978 until 1983 any boy born around Christmas was named and christened EMMANUEL.

Most of those boys grew up to dislike their name.

So, in Belfast  Emmanuel soon became “BAP”.

And so you had Bap Nugent, Bap Maguire, and so on.

But for us Christians, the word Emnanuel is a wonderful word – GOD IS WITH US.

This world has always been a tough place.

In parts of the word today there is extreme hunger, extreme drought, extreme fighting and wars.

And in the history of the world there have always been tough times.

Famines, wars, plagues and diseases.

There have been crusades  reformations and inquisitions.

So the world has always known and experienced darkness.

And today it is no different.

We are on third variation of Coronavirus. Many thousands have died. Many more thousands have been gravely ill. Business and commerce are struggling.

Here in our own Oratory family we have two members preparing for major surgery in the coming days.

One of ours in Belfast is on morphine for extreme pain.

And all of us are under the Omicron cloud.

So there is still suffering and darkness overcrowding our own lives.

Many years Go I learned not to use many useless words when visiting the wake house of a deceased.

It was always better just TO BE THERE.

To hold a hand.

To give a hug.

People remember those who were WITH THEM in their dark time.

And so it is with God.

And so it is with Christmas.

God came to be our EMMANUEL.

God came to be WITH US.

And having God simply with us is touching, healing, comforting and encouraging.

Some people think of God as their “problem solver”.

A king who grants favours to his subjects.

A shop keeper who gives free sweets to children to stop them crying.

That is not a mature way to see God.


We need to realise that we are in a RELATIONSHIP with God.

He is our lover, our partner, our friend – our constant companion on our journey – through the good times and the bad times.

Sometimes he may answer a particular prayer and sometimes he will not.

And that in itself is mysterious.

But he is ALWAYS with us and that makes all the difference.

CHRISTMAS is the feast of God being with us.

And he has said”

“In the world you will have trouble. But do not be afraid, I have overcome the world”.

God moves in a mysterious way

Author: William Cowper (1774)

1. God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform.
He plants his footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.

2 You fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds you so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.

3 His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding ev’ry hour.
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flow’r.

4 Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan his work in vain.
God is his own interpreter,
And he will make it plain.