Scottish Parliament Wednesday 22 December 2004
[The Presiding Officer opened the meeting at 14:30]
The Presiding Officer (Mr George Reid): Good afternoon. The first item of business today, as every Wednesday, is time for reflection, which is led today by His Eminence Cardinal Keith O'Brien, Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh.
Cardinal Keith O'Brien (Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh): Just a few days ago, I was in Edinburgh's Saughton prison for the annual Christmas service of carols and prayers. Leading the celebration were the songsters and band of the Salvation Army, and I was asked to give the final blessing.
An address was given by a Salvation Army officer, and he began by asking everyone to think of three words that, for them, summed up something of the joy and happiness of Christmas. He himself gave a few examples. His examples included: turkey and stuffing; the Queen's broadcast; mince-pie and cream; Morecambe and Wise; and so on. He then asked his congregation to think of some similar examples involving just three words. There was quite a silence from the congregation until one of the prisoners put up his hand rather slowly and then shouted out, "My three words are, ‘Let me oot.'" The officer did not ask for any further examples but quickly concluded his message by saying that the three words that summed up for him something of Christmas were, "Jesus is born."
However, on thinking of those words of the prisoner at Saughton, I thought that in many ways they did really sum up the message of Christmas. "Let me oot!" "Let me go free!" For that is the message of the prophet Isaiah in the Old Testament before the coming of Christ. We are told that Jesus stood up in the synagogue in Nazara and quoted Isaiah, saying:
"The spirit of the Lord has been given to me, for he has anointed me. He has sent me to bring good news to the poor, to bind up hearts that are broken; to proclaim liberty to captives, freedom to those in prison; to proclaim a year of favour from the Lord."
The message of Isaiah—the message of Jesus—was that of bringing good news to the poor and of proclaiming liberty to captives and freedom to those in prison. That message, I think, should be in the minds of those of us in positions of responsibility in our country at the present time.
There are indeed many around us who are poor, some materially and many spiritually. There are in our midst so many who have broken hearts for whatever reason—perhaps quite simply because they cannot cope with living life as it is expected of them at present. There are many in our communities who are captives in some way or another—captives to an addiction to drink, drugs, sexual aberrations or whatever.
In some ways, so many around us are all crying out like that prisoner in Saughton to be set free, to be let out, to be free from whatever is burdening them. Each one of us in our positions of responsibility must surely try to bring freedom to those who are in any sort of need, to those for whom we have such heavy responsibility.
May the good news from Isaiah and the good news from Jesus filter through us to all who are expecting a message of hope at this time. May members of the Parliament have a very happy Christmas and every blessing in the year that lies ahead.
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