Anglican Bishop of Portsmouth the Rt Rev Christopher Foster's Christmas message

Here the Anglican Bishop of Portsmouth gives his Christmas message to readers of The News.

The Rt Rev Bishop Christopher Foster, the Anglican Bishop of Portsmouth

Happy Christmas! I’m sending my best wishes for a joyful and hopeful Christmas alongside those of the leaders and congregations of the churches local to you.

From the biggest and grandest churches in our towns to the smallest country chapels and churches, all our ministers and clergy send their good wishes as we celebrate Christmas. We invite you to join us – in person, online or by phone – in sharing worship and finding comfort and joy in celebrating Jesus’ birth.

This has been a year of surprises and shocks. None of us expected the events of 2020 which came out of the blue, and have had an impact on us all. Every one of us has faced change and restrictions.

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We have been limited in what we can do, where we can go, and who we can see.

For most of us this has been frustrating. For some of us it has been life-changing, with the death of a loved one, or the experience of illness or suffering in our families. There has been for many the worry of losing a job or finding ourselves short of money or support. The surprise and shock have affected us all.

Jesus’ birth was a surprise. Although a few saw it predicted in the prophets of the Old Testament long before, no one was really prepared for the reality we celebrate over the next fortnight.

The journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, the makeshift arrangements for a birth in a stable, the angels appearing to shepherds alone in the hills, a star leading wise men from a far-away country, and the anger of a king compelling Mary and Joseph to flee into exile as refugees – these things are still today astonishing for us. We are surprised, perhaps shocked, that this is the way God chooses to be in the world and among us humans.

These unexpected events in the life of a homeless family in Bethlehem will be celebrated in our homes, bringing hope into our troubles, worries and hurts this Christmas. In Jesus’ birth we have confidence that God is on our side. He is alongside us and with us in the challenges we face. Jesus is our comfort and reassurance that in our shocks and troubles we are supported and sustained by his presence and his love.

This surprising birth also brings joy to our lives, which this year have largely lacked the enjoyment of holidays, days out and parties. Although in a more restricted way than usual, we are still able joyfully to celebrate in our own homes the story of a this small family and its impact for bringing hope into human life.

I wish you a very Happy Christmas, celebrating Jesus who is our Comfort and our Joy.