In his Christmas message, the Bishop of Lichfield, the Rt Revd Dr Michael Ipgrave, says Christmas cannot be cancelled:
"Some people have worried that Christmas might be cancelled this year. Some have even felt that it would be better if the whole of 2021 had been cancelled. It has been another unsettling year for the human race, and us as individuals. We have seen turmoil in many nations, disruption of everyday lives, crises, calamities, and dangers across the world and in our own communities.
"When our lives are shaken as they have been shaken and are being shaken, it makes us think about what really matters in life. What is our deepest desire? What is it that we really long for in our lives? The shallow answers of more possessions, more comfort, more money, more fame or whatever – these will no longer satisfy us, and we look for that which meets our deepest longings.
"Christians believe our longings are met in the God who knows us and loves us. Every Christmas we tell again the story of that God, who loves our world so much that he chooses to come among us – not because he is obliged to, not because we have asked him to, but simply out of grace. We always begin with grace, and we always come back to grace, shown in the sign of Emmanuel ('God with us'), in Jesus Christ, born as a baby among us. No law, no government, no power on earth can cancel the wonder and grace of that birth.
"I hope you find time this Christmas to let that wonder and grace fill your heart."
In his Christmas message, the Bishop of Wolverhampton, the Rt Revd Clive Gregory, said:
"My favourite Christmas ad this year tells the story of an unlikely friendship, between a zoo employee, who would otherwise be lonely at Christmas, and a spotted hyena, who he manages to smuggle out of the zoo. The joy that they find in each other’s company makes Christmas special for both of them.
"The ad made me reflect with thanksgiving on the joy that so many of us find in the friendship of our companion animals. As Omicron threatens to reduce our opportunities for human contact this Christmas, our connection to the natural world whether through the birds in our garden or the dog in his basket, will be all the more precious. And this is as it should be. During this year both of pandemic and of COP26 our appreciation of and dependence on the natural world has perhaps never been so evident. We are bound together, all part of one amazing creation. All recipients of the gift of life.
"The ad also made me think of another unlikely friendship, between God and humanity, that was sealed by the birth of Jesus. It was then that it became clear that we were God’s companion animal, of choice. It’s not only a lucky hyena who gets to smile and laugh this Christmas. It’s all of us who know the joy of being befriended by God and the unconditional love that underpins that friendship.
"May that joy and that love be real to you this Christmas."
The Bishop of Shrewsbury, the Rt Revd Sarah Bullock, in her Christmas message, said:
"The constantly changing landscape of our life as communities and as individuals has been a very real and present experience over the past nearly two years and can leave us feeling uncertain about the future. Reflecting on the challenge of what seems like constant change brought to my mind a prayer from the service of Night Prayer (Compline):
Be present, O merciful God,
and protect us through the silent hours of this night,
so that we who are wearied
by the changes and chances of this fleeting world,
may rest upon your eternal changelessness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
"The concept of something ‘changeless’, especially at such a time as we are living through, speaks to our hearts. We see that God invites us to put ourselves into his hands, to trust and to rest in him, our constant, loving and faithful God. In the Bible we hear these words from the Psalmist:
Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
and abides under the shadow of the Almighty,
shall say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my stronghold,
my God, in whom I put my trust.’ (Psalm 91: 1-2)
"God calls us to look past our fear and anxiety, whether it is about ourselves, our families, friends, community, work, church, world or countless other possibilities, and to step into this new year with hope. We can know that as we move forward, we are held close to the heart of God, enfolded in his love and that he will walk with us through the times ahead, for he is a faithful God.
"May I wish each and every one of you a blessed and hope-filled new year."