On behalf of your local vicar and parish I wish all readers of The News a happy and peaceful Christmas, and invite you to share in a service, gathering or event in your local church over the coming days.
Your local church is your church and you are welcome to sing carols, to pray and worship as we celebrate the birth of Jesus.
Happy Christmas! These are words we shall say over and over again from now until the New Year.
We mean them as words of friendship and solidarity but do we ever think what they mean? What is it that brings us happiness and joy?
For many people this season may not be happy.
For some in work money is tight and jobs seem at risk.
For those on benefit tight budgets will be even tighter next year.
For the poorest and those on the streets and homeless, things are tougher than ever.
Even for those more comfortable there may be pressures and tensions because of family illness and stress as we worry about the health and happiness of those we care about. To wish each other a Happy Christmas is not just to be polite.
It’s our chance to think what we can do to help or support someone in finding the happiness they seek.
That was why Jesus was born – because God has a concern for everyone to find fulfilment and not to live in pain or distress, in poverty or sorrow. God did not just say he cared and loved.
He made that concern real in Jesus coming as a baby, and then as a person, to embody that solidarity with us.
God acted as well as speaking. That’s what we celebrate as we sing carols, give and receive presents, and enjoy the Christmas holiday.
It’s a challenge to us to take the trouble to think what we can do or give to show that we mean what we say.
Christmas celebrates God being alongside us and not distant – and that’s a reminder of how we can try to be with our families and friends, our colleagues and neighbours to whom we wish a Happy Christmas.
Finally, can I add my special greetings to three groups of people?
First, to those who work when we all take holiday, to maintain essential and emergency services in the community.
We thank you, and wish you as well a happy celebration.
Secondly, to those who are housebound and who read The News but may see nobody over Christmas.
Thirdly, I send greetings to anyone, young or old, whose heart is troubled and who is longing for new hope or healing or comfort at this time.
I send you best wishes for Christmas, joy and its deepest peace.
I wish you all Happy Christmas.