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Bishops' Letter

Bishop Christopher writes…

When Christmas comes, year after year, when all the trappings are stripped away, the wonderful thing is to discover anew that we are celebrating the birth of the Christ child. In the birth of a child parents and onlookers glimpse the miracle of creation. The truth about life, which at other times we may doubt, is so much more clear: that our very life itself is God’s gift and blessing.

With the birth of Jesus Christ this is supremely so. In the Gospels we hear of shepherds leaving their sheep and wise men journeying to the place where they can worship the new born king. Seeing Christmas and Epiphany as a season of gifts starts with our thanksgiving for the gift of life itself - or as the General Thanksgiving puts it, thanks for ‘our creation preservation and all the blessings of this life’.

The Magi brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh and in the famous Carol ‘In the bleak mid-winter’ the final verse encourages us to ask the question, ‘What can I give him, poor as I am? If I were a shepherd I will bring a lamb; if I were a wise man I would do my part; yet what I can I give him - give my heart.’

The Christian faith rests on our understanding that the birth of Christ is the outpouring of God’s love for us - God’s great gift to us of his beloved Son who himself ultimately gives his life for us, opening the door for us to share in eternal life through him. So In this season of gifts and the exchange of gifts let us remember not to neglect those things that come from the heart.

And when we move into the new year, let us also remember the song of the angels, as witnessed by those shepherds tending their sheep, ‘Peace on Earth and goodwill to all people’. As we re-order our relations with the European Union may we find the language of peace and goodwill in our public discourse and engagement with this great issue of the day. Whatever our individual convictions, strong as they may be, we have an opportunity to show and above all to pray for courtesy and much needed respect in our dealings with our fellow countrymen and women.

With my prayers and good wishes for Peace and Joy and Goodwill this Christmas and throughout the coming year.

+Christopher Southwark