Christmas greetings from our bishops

Published: 22nd December 2023

The light shines in the darkness.

This Christmas our world feels fragile. War in Europe and in Israel / Palestine, the cost of living crisis leaving many people struggling to live a life that feels secure and positive, public sector workers striking, climate change causing lasting impact across the world and personal, family and community tragedies being faced by many.

Into all of this we hear these words of hope:

‘The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.’

These words are from the beginning of the Gospel of John and will be read out in millions of Carol Services across our world this Christmas and which bring hope to a waiting and often weary world.

The light of the birth of Jesus, in a stable in Bethlehem, more than 2000 years ago, reveals God to us. A light that cannot be overcome, a light to shine in the darkness of our world, showing us all that God is - a God of hope and love for the world.

And the light of Jesus Christ can be seen in all our communities in those who care for the sick, for those who are experiencing poverty, homelessness and hunger, who ensure that all children have access to education, who care for the old and infirm, who run our public services, in those who, this Christmas, will ensure that people have company and a warm meal on Christmas Day, who will visit a neighbour or speak words of comfort to one who has lost someone close to their heart.

This Christmas, may you know the light, love, peace, comfort and blessing of God.

Rt Revd Sarah Bullock, Bishop of Shrewsbury

God makes room for us.

I have been struck afresh by the fact that Mary was forced to lay her child Jesus in a manger “because here was no place for them in the inn”. It is a heart rending little phrase - there was “no place for them”. No room for a expectant mother, an anxious father, and a newborn child. 

There is no evidence that this was the result of deliberate cruelty or hostility towards this fragile little family. The city was busy and the inn keeper frazzled; there was pressure on accommodation and resources were stretched. A decision had been made by someone else - somewhere else - that everyone had to return to their ancestral home to register. Joseph and Mary were simply caught up in a bureaucratic machine working its way through its routines.

In a cost-of-living crisis, we have all become aware of the ways in which we, and others, can suddenly find ourselves feeling as though we have “no place” due to impersonal forces outside our control. A change is made to the benefits system, a job is cut, a price cap raised, a war begins overseas, and suddenly our place in the world is taken from us. It’s nothing “personal”, you understand, just the indifferent operation of forces and systems. 

It is a terrible thing to have no place but, if that’s how it feels for you, then there is good news this Christmas. The One who was laid in a manger because there was no place for him in the inn comes to us bringing his love and joy and hope. It is a message for everyone but especially for those who feel lonely, overlooked, and locked out. There is nothing careless or indifferent about the new world that Jesus brings into being by his birth among us. God makes room for us.  In God’s glorious kingdom everyone counts and there is room for everyone, and everyone has a place. 

Rt Revd Matthew Parker, Bishop of Stafford

Hope in thedarkness

It’s only when it’s really dark, that you realise how much you need the light. Here in Orkney, where I live when I’m not in the Midlands, it gets dark really early at this time of year. It also gets quite stormy, so we’re all used to having occasional power cuts. But even so, when the light goes off there’s that moment of panic when you can’t see a thing, and you’re fumbling around for your phone, or a box of matches, or whatever will shed a little light. Then you wander around the house looking for all the battery operated lights, and wondering if you’re going to need to get the camping stove out. Not many of us probably would admit to being scared of the dark – but I’m sure most of would prefer to have a little light.

Those of us who go to church on Christmas will probably have heard the words from the beginning of John’s gospel: ‘the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it’. John’s taking the idea of physical light and darkness, and transferring them across to something much bigger – the light of the love of God who created the world, which he saw taking human form in Jesus Christ. At the darkest time of the year, the message he was telling was a message of hope: that the power of darkness has been defeated. 

As you celebrate this Christmas, I hope you have a time full of light and happiness. But if this Christmas is a tough time for you, I hope you will find in it the message of hope, that God’s love is always shining into the world.

Rt Revd Jonathan Clark, acting Bishop of Wolverhampton

Page last updated: Friday 22nd December 2023 3:28 PM
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