On the third Sunday of Advent, our next weekly Advent reflection comes from Kiera O'Neill, who reflects on the true meaning of Christmas.
Christmas is a time of great joy; the joy of shopping, presents, decorations, food, parties and reunions. However, this joy often comes with pressure, stress and expense and we begin to wonder if Christmas is worth the effort.
Maybe we have lost sight of what Christmas really means.
The first Christmas saw the birth of Jesus in the poverty of a stable, his parents far from their home. In these simple, humble surroundings came the ultimate joy, in the birth of Jesus.
Maybe we need to rethink the joy at Christmas, the joy of family, of ‘presence’ instead of ‘presents’, the joy of home, safety and refuge.
After spending several weeks in Ethiopia this summer, I realised that real joy comes from the simplest of things. Joy is shelter, joy is love, joy is health, joy is faith.
My time in Ethiopia made me realise that true happiness is in giving. True happiness is when we see other people happy.
This Christmas may we remember the true meaning of Christmas by remembering those who have no home, who have poor health and those who are lonely.
Let us pray that Jesus will be born in our hearts this Christmas. May He give us the courage to extend the joy of Christmas in the simple things; in our words, in our actions and in our act of charity.
God, help us to seek the values that will bring us lasting joy in this changing world. As we celebrate the birth of Christ, of Emmanuel — “God with us” — we are grateful God that you open a door of hope in our world. May we remember the great power of your love and rededicate ourselves to loving and serving those who are in need at this special time of year.
Kiera O’Neill was a leader for the Ulster University/Living Youth team of volunteers who travelled to Addis Abba this summer to support the Ethiopia Partnership. Donate to this life-changing work this Christmas or learn about similar trips in 2016.