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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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Community

Demolition of St Thomas Green vandal-blighted building approved

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A SOCIAL housing provider scheme to demolish a deteriorated vandal-blighted house in Haverfordwest has been approved by county planners.

Earlier this year, social housing provider Ateb Group Limited gave county planners prior notification of its plans to demolish The Grove, St Thomas Green.

In its application, it stated: “The building has been unoccupied for several years and its physical condition has deteriorated significantly over that time. It has become prone to vandalism and trespass and is becoming difficult to manage and secure.

“It’s demolition will allow the structure and resultant debris to be removed, improving the visual amenities of the locality. It will also enable the site to become readily available for a sensitive redevelopment in association with the adjacent Meyler House.”

It added: “The cleared site will become part of the adjoining Meyler House site, with proposals being prepared to redevelop and construct affordable elderly persons apartments and associated parking facilities.”

Agent Evans Banks Planning Limited, in a supporting statement said The Grove, adjoining Ateb’s head offices at Meyler House, received permission back in 2009 for the “Demolition of existing dwelling and replacement with apartments, houses and landscaped grounds.”

Conservation Area Consent was also granted at that time.

“Those permissions were not implemented and have long since lapsed, but nevertheless indicate that the principle of demolishing The Grove was deemed acceptable at that time to the local planning authority,” said Evans Banks Planning Limited.

“A pre-application enquiry has recently been presented before the local planning authority which seeks to reignite such redevelopment proposals but on a much larger site, incorporating Meyler House and its grounds into a comprehensive redevelopment scheme to create elderly persons apartments.”

It added: “This current submission seeks to renew that 2009 Conservation Area Consent given that the existing former dwelling house has now reached a physical state where its deterioration is causing concern.”

However, county planners determined that prior approval was needed before any demolition works take place, with details of tree protection while the works take place needed, along with a suitable method statement to minimise noise, dust and a strategy for dealing with hazardous materials should they arise during the demolition.

County planners have now granted Conservation Area approval for the plans.

A similar application by Ateb, for demolition works at the town’s former learning centre, near to the former county library, recently made subject to broadly similar conditions, has since been granted permission.

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Community

The Big Beer Festival returns to Milford Waterfront

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MILFORD HAVEN is set to host the highly anticipated Big Beer Festival tomorrow at Milford Waterfront. Beginning at 12:00 PM on May 25, the event promises a vibrant celebration featuring an impressive array of real ales, lagers, and ciders, along with a prosecco and Pimm’s bar for those with different tastes.

Local bands will provide live music throughout the day, ensuring a lively atmosphere. Headline act 4th Street will be among the performers, with additional acts including After the Fire, Steve Bartram, Two Suns, Tin Man Revolution, and DJ Robzy. Food lovers can enjoy diverse culinary offerings from The Junkyard Dog and Marcela Mexican Cuisine at the Thornton Motors Streetfood Zone. Entry is £20, which includes four drink tokens and a limited edition glass. Each token can be exchanged for a half pint, a glass of prosecco, or a glass of Pimm’s. The festival will run until 11:00 PM.

This event is part of the continued partnership between Milford Waterfront and the Milford Haven Round Table. This collaboration supports a calendar of events throughout the year, raising funds for local causes and creating enjoyable experiences for the community and visitors. Upcoming events include the Milford Haven Carnival on July 6 and the Fireworks Extravaganza on November 5.

As well as local petrol station company The Ascona Group, Howden, a global insurance intermediary group, is a key supporter of the festival. As a deluxe sponsor, Howden is donating £500 towards the event. Gary Stevens, Regional Managing Director, expressed his delight in supporting the Milford Haven Round Table, emphasizing the event’s significance as a fantastic day out for the bank holiday weekend and a means to support the local community.

Milford Haven Round Table, the UK’s largest Round Table with 30 active members, organizes this festival to give back to the local community. All funds raised support local charities, groups, and individuals, including popular free entry events like the town’s annual carnival and fireworks display.

For more details, visit the official event page.

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Community

Public transport issues could affect thousands of older people in Wales

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THOUSANDS of older people across Wales may find it difficult to get out and about and do the things they want to do this bank holiday weekend due to difficulties accessing public transport, according to the findings of a new poll undertaken by the Older People’s Commissioner for Wales.1

A third of older people who responded to the Commissioner’s poll said they find it difficult to access public transport in their area, while the Commissioner’s findings also highlight that 1 in 5 people aged 70+, and nearly 1 in 4 older people living with health issues or disabilities, are now using their bus pass less compared to two years ago.

Reasons shared by older people as to why they were using public transport less frequently included fewer buses, unreliable or delayed services, changes to routes or the location of bus stops and difficulties finding information about routes or timetables.

Older people using their bus pass less frequently told the Commissioner they had less freedom and independence, and found it more difficult to access appointments and services. They also said they had become more reliant on others, or had no option but to use a car or taxi rather than greener public transport options.

The Commissioner is concerned that any further cuts to bus services would make it even more difficult for older people to use public transport, leaving people unable to get out and about and do the things that matter to them, and at greater risk of loneliness and isolation.

She says that where changes to services are unavoidable, it is crucial that older people’s voices and experiences are used to guide decisions and shape future plans, and that community transport services should be supported to fill gaps in provision.

Older People’s Commissioner for Wales, Heléna Herklots CBE, said: “Transport plays a crucial role in supporting us to be independent and do the things that matter to us regardless of our age, whether it’s enjoying ourselves on a bank holiday or doing other things such as attending health appointments, caring for loved ones, volunteering, meeting up with family or friends, or going shopping on the high street.

“And as we get older, we may come to rely on public transport more often to do these things.”

“My poll findings suggest that a third of older people in Wales – nearly 300,000 people – find it difficult to access public transport in their communities, and that use of the concessionary bus pass has fallen over the past two years, particularly amongst people over the age of 70, and those living with long-term health conditions or disabilities.

“Without access to public transport, a growing number of older people will find themselves with less independence, less active and engaged with their communities, and at greater risk of loneliness and isolation.

“Many of the issues highlighted by older people that make it more difficult to use public transport – such as the distance of bus stops from key facilities such as GP surgeries – could be tackled through ensuring that older people are involved in planning and decision-making, so their voices can shape bus services in a meaningful way, particularly where changes to services cannot be avoided.

“It’s also crucial that in areas where public transport provision is lacking, community transport services are supported, via longer-term, more sustainable funding, to fill gaps and help ensure older people can get where they need to go.”

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