Find resources to support your parish this Advent and Christmas
Bishop David's message in text form
May our Christian hope, rooted firmly in Jesus Christ, dwell richly within you and your community this Advent season.
I hope that you share my delight that the reduction in infection during the recent lockdown, combined with promising news from several vaccine trials, means that many of us will be able to return to gathering in our churches and other meeting places for public worship through the Christmas period and into next year.
The long journey to Bethlehem that Mary and Joseph undertook that winter 2000 and more years ago, was not of their choosing. It was required, St Luke tells us, by government edict. Arriving in a town where Joseph would have hoped to be put up by relatives, led to a demoralising search for accommodation. Finally, they found their resting place in an outbuilding, at which point Mary went straight into labour.
I suspect many of us, at the end of this tough year, empathise with them. We too are worn out, in our case by the constant demands of living under pandemic. We too are unable to recharge our batteries among our families and relatives in the ways we might wish. And now we face the challenge of our communities looking to us to help them encounter the comfort and joy of Christmas through the events we can put on. It may all seem too much.
And yet the Christmas story does not end in exhaustion and demoralisation. The birth of Jesus makes all Mary and Joseph’s struggle and toil worthwhile. Their joy in the birth of the Christ child overwhelms all the negative experiences they have undergone. It puts their efforts into a true perspective. In his presence they find rest and comfort, as well as joy.
My prayer for each of us, as we enter the run up to Christmas, is that this will be our story too. That we will find times of rest, and outpourings of joy, even as we prepare our Christmas celebrations. Joy and comfort that will, I pray, burst into full bloom at Christmas, and then go on to give us the strength for what we can hope will be the final phase of strict social distancing.
May God be both your companion on the journey and your destination, as together we approach the season of our saviour’s birth.
For when it comes, I wish you a happy Christmas!