Shrewsbury ... shall be a name 'as stirring to the heart as the glories we have lost'

Blessed John Henry Newman, 1852

Letters and Homilies

Homily at Midnight Mass, December 25th 2018

Christmas has been celebrated in Shrewsbury for more than a thousand years, from the foundation of this town as, indeed, from the beginning of this nation. The “news of great joy” (Lk. 2: 10) first announced in Bethlehem has been our guiding light throughout our history and especially in its darkest hours. At this Christmas of 2018, marked by so much soul-searching and uncertainty about the future, we pause in this national holiday to return to the peaceful light which Christ’s glorious Nativity has long shed on our path.

The news which broke into the darkness of the first Christmas night – “Today a saviour has been born to you … He is Christ the Lord” (Lk. 2: 12) – has led us as a nation, never to search for other saviours. The Christian faith has guarded us from placing undue confidence in passing leaders or political movements. We have seen how misplaced confidence in secular, messianic claims left a trail of terrible devastation in the past century. In the Child born in Bethlehem we have already found the One who alone can save us. And in the long story of our land, every monarch, all earthly power has been called to bend the knee before this Child ‘born for us’ and the love and truth He reveals. In Saint Paul’s words, it has led to strive to be a people who “would have no ambition except to do good” (Titus 2:14).

In the light of Christmas, may we never lose this perspective on the passing crises of time nor be deceived by false claims of political salvation. Should we ever forget what we owe to Christmas and to our Christian inheritance, then in confused times we might become like someone who loses their memory and are in danger of assuming a false identity. We have no need to search for a national identity – grace and history have given us this identity. May we be true to the very Christian calling which formed our nation especially when we are faced with difficult choices and reconciling contradictory visions of what our future might be.

As Christians, we know a special responsibility and recognise that we can never allow ourselves to settle for mediocrity. Kneeling before the Nativity and before the mystery and reality of the Eucharist we cannot remain unmoved that God’s love went so far to save us. God stopped at nothing, taking a human nature in order to raise us to be the children of God: an unimaginable greatness. We are moved in ‘Christ’s Mass’ to strive anew for the fullness of the Christian life and the perfection of love. It is the goal of holiness for which we set anew as a Diocese in the Year of Grace 2019. And in times of crisis, may we never allow ourselves to give way to the shadows of cynicism. May the bright light of this national holiday lead us to pray for our political leaders and all who have responsibility in our public life.  May we find our way together by being true to that Light which first shone in Bethlehem and has continued to guide all generations.  

+ Mark

Bishop of Shrewsbury