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A Christmas message

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christmas messageFrom Father Paul, St Francis Church, Milford Haven

THERE are many important festive seasons and vacation periods every year especially among the Christians around the globe. Each season celebrated has its origin, purpose, value and meaning attached to it. This again defines the pace of such celebration, hence the glamour and tempo of each celebration varies from place to place and from person to person.

For the Christians and those with Christian background, the month of December remains very special. First, for the non-Christians it marks the end of the year that creates a new hope and expectation for a new year to come. But for the Christians, the reason moves beyond this.

The December month remains special and calls for special and adequate spiritual preparation both physically and spiritually. The physical deals with the material needed for the celebration such as buying food, clothes and Christmas trees, lights, gifts and cards for friends and relatives.

The spiritual preparation deals with making our hearts ready for the coming of Christ through repentance and reconciliation. This will enable us to welcome Christ into our hearts and homes with joy. The spiritual aspect remains the most important. This is the message of John the Baptist who prepared the way for the Messiah (Matt 3:2-3).

For the Christians, especially the Catholics, the spiritual preparation begins with Advent, which lasts for four weeks. Advent means before the coming of Jesus Christ. Advent becomes a season that helps the Christians to prepare for the two fold inter-connected realities namely, the birth of Jesus Christ and his second coming in glory.

Advent becomes a season for sober reflection, meditation, prayer and reconciliation. It is a season of hope and expectation. Unfortunately, today the spiritual preparation is overshadowed by the material due to over commercialisation of the event and the season.

Through adverts many companies and supermarkets create the desire to buy things during the Christmas season. This perhaps explains why the Christmas means different things to different people.

Why some see it as an opportunity to make more money, to others it is a time of stress for poor families who have to struggle to meet the demand of their children expecting special gifts. To others, it is a time of joy, hope, consolation, solidarity, reunion and sharing.

The questions then are: What is Christmas? What is the biblical foundation of the celebration? How can we celebrate it properly? And finally how is Christmas celebrated in many parts of Nigeria?

Christmas has its foundation in the biblical narratives of the nativity of Christ, especially in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke which focused on the story of the conception and birth of Jesus in a poor stable in Bethlehem and how the glory of the newly born child was revealed to the three wise men known as the Magi or Shepherds and their subsequent visit to the Saviour to pay their homage guided by the star (Matt 1:18-22; Luke 1:1-14, 26-36).

The Gospel narratives of the birth of Jesus becomes the fulfilment of the various prophesies made concerning a virgin that will give birth to a child who will save the world (Isaish 7:14; 9:6).

It is the birth of Jesus Christ whose mission is to save the world that Christians celebrate every Christmas from December 24 to January 6 (Epiphany). The meaning of Christmas and its value therefore is not in the gifts received or given, but it lies in the fact that God has fulfilled his promise to save his Children.

In doing this, the Word became Flesh (Jn 1:14) so as to identify himself with the humans and be part of human history and struggle through humility and obedience to the plan of God the Father (Phil 2:6-8). This is clearly revealed in the name given to the Child by the Angel Immanuel (Matt 1: 23-24) which means the Lord is with us.

In line with the Old Testament, the child (Jesus Christ) will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Micah 5:2). It is through the incarnation of Christ that God truly reconciled the humans with himself (2 Cor 5: 18-20) This is the whole essence of the death of Christ on the Cross.

Christmas gives us the hope that we are not left alone. It shows the immensity of God’s love (Jn 3:16-17; 1Jn 4:10). As a good shepherd, Jesus will guide and protect us.

The ministry of healing and teaching of Jesus Christ in the Gospel and the post resurrection experiences of the early Christian community in the Acts of the Apostles rekindles yearly why his birth must and should be celebrated with joy.

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Schools to remain open for now as Wales moves to ‘delay’ phase

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SCHOOLS will remain open as Wales moves into the “delay” phase in containing the coronavirus, the Welsh Government has announced.

The advice will change from Friday (Mar 13), with people who become unwell being asked to self-isolate for seven days.

Chief medical officer Dr Frank Atherton said the trajectory of the virus was now “quite clear” and the challenge remained preparing for a significant number of cases in Wales.

Dr Atherton said: “Wales was now really in the delay phase of the virus and it would lead to some inconvenience for people not going to work or school.

“We need to reduce the demand on the health and social care system so it can prepare for peak which may be May or June.”

SCHOOLS OPEN FOR NOW

Health Minister Vaughan Gething said closing schools was not an appropriate option for now.

He told a press conference at 3.30pm Thursday (Mar 12): “Ministers have had clear advice that closing schools now is not an appropriate step to take. For now, the advice and guidance is very clear. Schools should stay open.

“To be effective measure schools would have to be closed for a significant amount of time.

“If we close schools, what impact does that have on parents? Parents could be nurses, doctors or the police. We need to keep key workers in work.

“Another point is, if parents can’t look after them then it’s likely that older members of the family or grandparents will be. Older people are the people we want to protect now and in the future.

“Furthermore, in the Easter break, lots of children will be with each other anyway. The value in closing schools is low.

“Ministers are making choices guided by the best possible evidence and scientific advice.

“Members of governments around the UK need to take a responsible approach and take steps where there is no medical advice to do so within the four nations of the UK.”

LATEST FIGURES

Six new cases of coronavirus have been identified in Wales, bringing the total to 25 at the time of going to press. (7pm, March 12)

785 people in Wales have been tested for Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). 760 results were negative, and 25 results were positive.

CONCERT CANCELLED

Milford Haven School postponed the concert due to take place Thursday (Mar 12). The school stated on social media: “We have regrettably made the decision to cancel the scheduled Milford Haven Cluster Welsh Concert here at Milford Haven School tonight.

“The decision is owing to us taking a proactive approach to prioritising the health and safety of not only our own pupils, but also their families and the wider community. Please note, this is not due to any specific health concern within the school. We will announce rescheduling of this event in due course.”

ROBUST MEASURES IN PLACE

Dr Robin Howe, Incident Director for the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak response at Public Health Wales told The Herald that he was certain that “robust infection control measures in place.”

“The public can be assured that Wales and the whole of the UK is prepared for these types of incidents. Working with our partners in Wales and the UK, we have implemented our planned response, with robust infection control measures in place to protect the health of the public.

“We would encourage people to check the advice for returning travellers, which includes guidance for those returning from Italy, China, Thailand, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Macau, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Iran.

“Members of the public can help protect themselves and others by always carrying tissues, and using them to catch coughs or sneezes. They should bin the tissue, and to kill the germs, wash their hands with soap and water, or use a sanitiser gel. This is the best way to slow the spread of most germs, including Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).

“Public Health Wales’ trained scientists are now conducting the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) diagnostic test in Wales. Over 90 per cent of the individuals who have been tested in Wales have been offered testing in their own home, making it as convenient as possible for them, as well as protecting our ambulance and hospital resources for those who need it most. We are not able to comment on individual cases for reasons of patient confidentiality.”

Official updates on the virus in Wales will now be given at 11:00 daily.

There are now 596 confirmed cases in the UK, up from 456 on Wednesday, and two more deaths, of people with underlying health conditions in London and Essex, taking the total to 10.

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Ancient Connections – Creative Camino from Ireland to St Davids

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Ancient Connections, a three-year arts, heritage and tourism project linking North
Pembrokeshire and North Wexford is looking for Welsh and Irish artists and community
members to join a weeklong pilgrimage walk to St Davids, Pembrokeshire.

Since the launch of the project in September 2019, the Ancient Connections team have been
busy putting their ambitious plans into action; generating creative opportunities for artists and
communities to engage with their hidden past.

Now, the project is seeking two artists and three community members with close links to
Pembrokeshire to undertake a weeklong journey from Ferns, Co Wexford, to St Davids,
Pembrokeshire, in May 2020.

Artists working in performance-based art forms such as music, song, poetry, performance art
and dance are encouraged to apply, as they will be expected to produce new art works from
their experiences en route and to give short performances as part of the Fishguard Folk Festival
(23 rd May) and the St Davids Cathedral Festival (26 th May).

For hundreds of years St Davids was the most important site of pilgrimage in Wales, with two
visits said to equal one to Rome and three the equivalent of making a pilgrimage to the Holy
Land. 2020 marks the 900 th anniversary of St Davids canonization and pilgrimages are starting to
make a dramatic comeback! Many who undertake a modern pilgrimage do not necessarily
consider themselves religious; they are more often than not, simply looking to switch-off, slow-
down and reconnect to the important things in life.

Beginning with a spectacular send-off in Ferns, Ireland, on the 20 May, the pilgrims from
Wexford and Pembrokeshire, will make their way along the beautiful sandy beaches of the
Wexford coast, to the port of Rosslare. Here they will board the Stena Line ferry and set sail for
Fishguard. They will then wind their way along the rugged contours of the Pembrokeshire Coast
Path until they reach St Davids on 26 May.

For further information, including how to apply email ruth.jones@pembrokeshire.gov.uk
Closing date for applications is Tuesday 17 th March.

Ancient Connections is led by Pembrokeshire County Council together with partners Wexford
County Council, Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority and Visit Wexford. The project is
funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Ireland Wales co-operation
programme.

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Closing day approaching for deposit plan consultation

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The deadline is nearing for public comments on Pembrokeshire County Council’s replacement Local Development Plan – known as the Deposit Plan.

The public consultation on the Deposit Plan opened in January and will end at 4.30pm on Wednesday, 18th March.

The consultation has included seven drop-in sessions at locations around the county. Cllr Jon Harvey, Cabinet Member for Planning, said they had been well-attended and thanked members of the public for their feedback.

“We would encourage anyone interested in the future development of Pembrokeshire to participate in the consultation if they haven’t yet done so,” he added.

The Deposit Plan and related documents are available to view on the Council’s website at: www.pembrokeshire.gov.uk/local-development-plan-review/deposit

The Deposit Plan covers the area of Pembrokeshire excluding the National Park.

It identifies a need for 6,800 new homes between 2017 and 2033 (425 a year) including 2,000 affordable homes. This growth will be distributed across the Plan area in accordance with a whole County strategy, which promotes sustainable development.

Residents can look at the Deposit Plan text and maps to view proposals in their area. The Plan proposes revised town and village boundaries (known as settlement boundaries) and a range of sites are allocated for different land uses, including 70 sites for housing. It also identifies a range of industrial sites (known as Strategic Employment Sites), local employment sites and two quarry sites.

The Deposit Plan seeks to respond to the challenges of climate change by including policies and designations to protect sites and species that are of importance for their biodiversity and nature conservation interest, open spaces and Green Wedges.

New growth is directed to sustainable locations. Proposals for vulnerable uses are directed away from flood risk areas and new development will be limited in areas at risk because of climate change. All new dwellings will be built to high quality, energy efficient designs and will incorporate charging points for ultra-low emission vehicles. Three sites are allocated for solar photovoltaic arrays.

The Deposit Plan and related documents are available to view on the Council’s website at: www.pembrokeshire.gov.uk/local-development-plan-review/deposit

Hard copies are also available at County Hall, Haverfordwest, in Pembrokeshire County Council Customer Service Centres and in local Libraries, during normal opening hours.

• If you wish to have your say on the Deposit Plan you can do so using the Representations Form available online at the above website address, or in paper format from County Hall, Haverfordwest. This form should be used for making comments wherever possible.

• Please email your representation forms to ldp@pembrokeshire.gov.uk or post to The Development Plans Team, County Hall, Freeman’s Way, Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire, SA61 1TP by 4.30pm on Wednesday, 18th March 2020.

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