The Anglican Bishop of Portsmouth, the Rt Rev Christopher Foster

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All around us are Christmas trees, twinkling lights, carols, jingles and the buzz of excitement as we prepare for Christmas.

I send you my very best wishes for a time of peace, harmony and joy. That is exactly what God wished for us all when Jesus was born in Bethlehem.

This is my first Pompey Christmas and I am delighted to be here and to be part of local events and celebrations for the first time.

Most of us throw ourselves into preparations for Christmas with great enthusiasm. It's a pity if we reach Christmas Day feeling a bit jaded, because we want to be there, to go to Bethlehem. There may be times that you have heard yourself saying 'don't go there', when we think that we or someone else is about to speak about something risky or dangerous.

'Don't go there' we say, as if suggesting that it is unwise and we would do well to avoid that topic or discussion.

Christmas is all about going there. We want to enter more fully into the Christmas celebration as we go carol singing, share time with family and friends, support those less fortunate than we are, and as we go to church for carol services and Christingles, for Midnight Mass and on Christmas morning.

Most of those involved in Bethlehem for that first Christmas didn't want to be there. To their surprise they felt compelled and found themselves at the centre of the pivotal moment in history.

Mary and Joseph travelled to Bethlehem in order to be registered in the census which required them to travel to Joseph's home town.

After a long and difficult journey for a heavily-pregnant Mary they had to put up with make-shift accommodation. The shepherds, too, normally on the move at the edge of the community looking after their flocks, were as usual out on the hillside until the stunning appearance of the angels drew them down into the town. Otherwise they wouldn't have been there.

Later the Wise Men had set out on their long journey following a star not knowing where their journey would end. There they found themselves, all of them, in Bethlehem.

God could have said 'I won't go there' because it was certainly risky and dangerous for him to come amongst us as a vulnerable child.

God did go there. Or rather he came here to be with us and among us.