Bishop Christopher's Christmas message
Do you have a favourite Christmas advert this year? Over the last few years, there’s been a bit of a competition to see who can come up with the most heart-warming, interesting, or surprising festive advert.
Those adverts suggest that Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without that particular chocolate, tree, perfume, trampoline, dog, insurance policy, mince pie selection, or pair of trainers.
To be fair, the Church will often do the same by advertising our carol services and suggesting that Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a trip to church.
You might imagine I’m about to say that – unlike everyone else – the Church has a special reason to do that, because Christmas is about the birth of Jesus Christ. Well, that’s true, and I’d certainly encourage you to join us at carol services this Christmas.
But sometimes we can find inspiration in surprising places – not just in church. There may be something else that gives us the deep sense that this is ‘undisputed Christmas’ (to borrow one advertiser’s slogan this year).
As we continue to recall 100 years since the First World War, one story that comes to mind again and again is the Christmas truces, where soldiers at war with one another stopped fighting and met across the battlefield to play football.
For many of us, that image of soldiers laying down their weapons speaks powerfully of the idea of peace on Earth that seems at the heart of Christmas.
But it goes even deeper. The story of the Christmas truce points to the reconciliation that is all over the Christmas story.
You see it in the wise men from a distant country, welcoming the arrival of Jesus and being welcomed by his family. You see it in the shepherds, who were normally outcasts because they had to work seven days a week, welcomed into the presence of God’s son.
And you see it in the baby himself, showing God’s longing not to abandon humanity but to come to us – to bring light into the darkness and the promise of new life. God, reconciling us with himself through Jesus.
So yes, we’d love to welcome you to church. Some may join us through TV or radio, because of illness or frailty. But wherever you are, wherever you go, and whoever you meet, keep an eye out for those signs of reconciliation, hope and new life. They’re all around, pointing to ‘undisputed Christmas.’
I’d like to wish all readers of The News a joyful and peaceful Christmas. I send that greeting on behalf of my friends and colleagues in all the local Christian churches of this city and area.