Joy is easily encountered among family and friends, around dinner tables and Christmas trees, in rejoicing at the birth of the Christ child, and in the simple acts of charity that abound at this time of year.
Hope is more subtle. It is less about the outward celebrations that mark the joyful truths of Christmas than about sincerely embracing the promise of life everlasting announced by the coming of Jesus. People wish each other a Merry Christmas, not a hope-filled Christmas. Yet hope may be the greatest gift of the season. Joy can be a fleeting sensation at Christmastime if unaccompanied by the anchoring strength of true Christian hope.
“We need hope!” said Pope Francis. “We must not let hope abandon us.”
The hope proclaimed by Christmas is often lacking in a world beset by poverty and conflict and by attitudes that spurn faith in favour of individualism and consumerism. So our Christmas wish is that hope becomes as pervasive as joy, and that both spread in abundance. We also pray for:
o The spirit of compassion so evident during the Year of Mercy to become permanent in the lives of people around the world.
o Happiness and peace for the 35,000 Syrian and other refugees who will be experiencing their first Canadian Christmas.
o Continued good health and good humour for Pope Francis, who celebrates his first Christmas as an octogenarian.
o Wisdom, humility and restraint for Donald Trump so he may become a builder of bridges for a conflicted America and a troubled world.
o Universal respect for the conscience and religious rights of medical professionals (and their institutions) who refuse to participate directly or indirectly in assisted suicide and euthanasia.
o An infusion of political will in Ottawa to speedily create a national palliative and hospice care strategy to give patients genuine options and mitigate in a small way the onset of legalized assisted-dying in Canada.
o Safe and blessed celebrations in 2017 as the City of Montreal turns 375, the Archdiocese of Toronto turns 175 and Canada marks 150 years of Confederation.
o Genuine enthusiasm in political corridors and throughout society for the eradication of poverty across the country, particularly child poverty and among suffering First Nations communities.
o Peace, blessed peace, for all those affected by war and terror but particularly in the Middle East and many African nations, where millions of people have fled and live as refugees with no prospect of returning home until the guns fall silent.
o Finally, happiness and blessings for all our readers at Christmas and throughout the New Year.