Light in the darkness
23 December 2017 IN: Bishop
The true test of a community is not how it behaves when things are going well, but how it responds to the worst that can happen. Manchester proved itself in 2017.
I've known and loved this city all my life, but I've never been more proud of it than I am now. Faced by the murder of 22 people in our midst, and the maiming of dozens more, the people of Manchester made the right choices. That's something we can properly be thankful for this Christmas. And it's a good time to do so, because how we reacted to the Arena attack chimes well with the message of the season.
The bible passage read out in most churches at the traditional midnight Christmas service describes Jesus coming into the world like a light that shines into the darkness. On the evening after the terrorist struck, when I lit the memorial candle in front of a packed square and the world's media, it was those words I had in mind. However dark the crime committed in our city, we were not going to descend into that darkness. Echoing the bible, we would choose love instead of hate as our hallmark. It was amazing to see the rows of candles and heaps of flowers building up in Albert Square and then by St Ann's Church over the following days and weeks. It was touching to see strangers hug and embrace each other, as they made their individual acts of remembrance. A European journalist who had covered many tragedies commented to me how much more defiantly Manchester was reacting in its grief. We proved we can be both sad and proud together.
So let me suggest that this Christmas, either when family and friends are gathered together, or on your own, that you find a moment to light a candle. As it spreads its glow, offer a thought or prayer first for those injured or bereaved last May, then for our city and all its people, and finally for yourself, that you will be a light of love in the world in 2018.
And have a Merry Christmas!