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Christmas message from Rt Rev Bishop Brian McGee Bishop to Argyll and the Isles

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Have you ever wished that you could have been present at the first Christmas night?  
Imagine hearing the angels sing!
The wonder of seeing Jesus just after he was born, lying in the crib.
Would that, like Mary, we could have pondered the mystery in our hearts. If only we could have known the joy of the shepherds.
Such an experience would have been so wonderful. Isn’t it a pity we never experienced it?
However, there is no reason for regret. Those who encountered Jesus at Bethlehem, or anywhere else in Israel – as a child or as a man – had no advantage over us.
It is possible for us to have the most intimate and personal relationship with Jesus for he lives within us!
During the Last Supper Jesus urged: “Make your home in me as I make mine in you.” (John 15:5). “You will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.” (John 14:20).
However, do we experience this deeply personal encounter with the Lord?
During the Mass of Christmas Day, St John’s Gospel proclaims that although Jesus is “the true light ... the world did not know him. He came to his own domain and the world did not accept him.” (John 1:10-11)
Is it not sad and tragic that God prepared the Chosen People for the coming of Jesus and yet he was rejected?
Is it not equally sad that our own society rejects him today?  
Are we ourselves any better?
St Teresa of Avila, in her masterpiece The Interior Castle, emphasised that at the very centre of our being Christ resides radiating light and beauty – longing for us to benefit from his presence - but unfortunately very few Christians are even aware of his internal presence.
St Teresa’s insight begs the question - would I have recognised Jesus at Bethlehem?
On that holy night would I have been filled with joy, as only a few were, or would I have been indifferent to the divine presence like the majority?
Yet the beautiful truth is that today we can still intimately encounter Jesus.
This is God’s Will, it is only ourselves that prevents it.
During Advent we heard the voice of John the Baptist pleading that we repent and prepare the Lord’s Way. Only then can we truly experience Jesus.
This Christmas let us open up our hearts to the Lord.
Let us seek silence amidst the noise to reflect on his love.
Let us be prayerful.
Let us turn away from sin and reach out to others in love.
Then, with open hearts and minds, we will recognise Jesus and rejoice in his presence.
It would certainly have been lovely, but it was not necessary, for us to have been present at Bethlehem.
For today we can still see Jesus’ glory that is his as God (c.f. John 1:14).
Christ truly lives within us, longing for us to encounter him.
May you do so and be thoroughly blessed this Christmas season!

A festive message from Michael Russell MSP

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Living as we are through the most difficult and disturbing of times it is important for all of us - and especially politicians - to realise that there are more important things than partisan headlines, parliamentary debates and public disagreements.
Family, health, the company of friends, our homes and the wonderful environment of Argyll and Bute that we are lucky enough to live in, are all things which we should treasure and celebrate.
Those who lack them or who through illness or loneliness or despair cannot, for a time, appreciate them need our special thoughts particularly during the festive season.  
As your local MSP, working alongside my constituency staff, I have tried to help all of those who have contacted me during the year for whatever reason. That is my first duty and I am glad to do it.
We won’t always agree on everything but we can agree, I am sure, that by showing solidarity, mutual support and kindness we can find the best way to live together here in Argyll and Bute, in Scotland, across these islands, in Europe and globally.
We cannot know what lies ahead and the uncertainty of Brexit casts a long shadow locally and nationally at present. But this is a time to be hopeful, so with hope in my heart for Argyll and Bute and our country I am delighted to wish everyone in the constituency and beyond a great and very Merry Christmas and a peaceful and prosperous New Year.

A festive message from Brendan O’Hara MP

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‘May I begin by wishing each of you a very happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year.
I think it is important, particularly as we have likely busied ourselves buying presents and festive food, that we take a bit of time out to appreciate what we have but also to think of those less fortunate than ourselves and if possible, resolve to do something that will make a difference to someone’s life during the festivities.
Shamefully, despite the United Kingdom being the 6th largest economy in the world, more and more of our friends, neighbours and colleagues here in Argyll & Bute will have to rely on Food Banks and charities to get them through the Festive Season.
It beggars belief that in 2018, increasing numbers of mum’s, dad’s, children, pensioners, those in low-paid work, people seeking work, those living with mental health issues or a disability, could go hungry and more and more children may have had nothing to unwrap on Christmas morning.
And without the generosity of the people of Argyll & Bute and the wonderful work being done by an army of volunteers, the situation would be so much worse. And each of us owes these volunteers a huge thank you for the work they do.
So please, if you can afford it, please donate a little something extra to your local Food Bank between now and the New Year. I’m sure they or any number of local charities would gratefully receive toys and children’s gifts too. Or even a cash donation via one of the local churches would go a long way to help our neighbours in need.
As my dad would often say, “There, but for the grace of God go I”. ‘

The many colours of Cowal

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This morning (Thursday) saw Cowal residents turn their eyes skywards as one to marvel at the early morning light.
While it undoubtedly the same sky and the same sunrise for us all, it seems that everyone who took pictures of it captured something unique.

From Dunoon Cemetery, the Coal Pier, Strone Brae, Victoria Road and Argyll Street.

Please share your own pictures of this fantastic skyscape with us.





Saying it with flowers

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The talented ladies of Dunoon’s High Kirk have done it again - filled the church with a fine floral display on the theme of ‘She worketh well with her hands’.

There are 13 arrangements to be seen and the church is open from 10am until 4pm today, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Tea and coffee and home baking is also on offer if you drop in to view the flowers.

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