From Bishop John:
Christmas is a time of goodwill. “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will to all people” sang the angels at the birth of Jesus, as recorded by St Luke in the Bible.
I recently visited Worcester foodbank, which like many others, is organised by local churches, and which is a hive of activity at Christmas time. When thinking about goodwill, you won’t find a better example than foodbanks. They are a tangible sign of goodwill, of people demonstrating concern for those in need. Foodbanks show love in action rather than an airy, sentimental sort of love.
Similarly, Christmas makes clear that God doesn’t just love us in an airy, sentimental, romantic sort of fashion which doesn’t actually do anything. God’s love takes action in order to care for us, in order to save us.
“God so loved the world that he sent his only son into the world.” St John tells us. The word “Jesus” means ‘he saves’. Jesus came to Earth in order to demonstrate the great love that God has for us, to enfold us and save us with that love.
And although at Christmas the shelves of foodbanks are filled with Christmassy things as well as essentials, in order to try and give people just that little bit extra to be cheerful about, in fact foodbanks operate all the year round – goodwill should be for all seasons. The same is true of God’s love.
For what God shows us in the birth of the Christ child, which we celebrate at this time, is his unending, invincible and abiding love for us. A love which will be in action for us into all eternity.
I wish you a very happy Christmas.
Rt Revd Dr John Inge
Bishop of Worcester
And from Bishop Graham:
Much of life seems to hover between darkness and light.
Too much of 2017 seems to have been about darkness: uncertainty on the world stage and dangerous threats in tweets; the continued plight of refugees and minorities; the bombing of a pop concert; knife attacks on our streets; the horrifying fire at Grenfell Tower; and the hardships that have resulted from the rollout of Universal Credit.
Christmas reminds us that God’s way is one of light: human lives that are flourishing; seeking the common good for our communities; bringing healing out of brokenness, hope out of despair, peace out of hatred, and joy out of sorrow.
So see again around the back of the inn and peer in at that stable carved out of honeycomb rock where the faces of new parents are picked out in the light of an oil lamp.
See again the dark Judean hillside, the rocky terraces, and the shepherds being woken from their slumber by the light that shone all around them.
And see again the magi travelling from afar, their faith resting on the light of a new star that shines in the night sky and guides their path.
All of these characters’ eyes are soon set on the infant Jesus. They see how he radiates and reflects the unimaginable beauty and light of the source from which he comes. This child brings light in the darkness not to some lives but to all lives. When we open our hearts to him, so something of that light also radiates from us. In turn, we bring light in places and situations of darkness.
My prayer is that the light of Jesus will fill your Christmas this year.
Rt Revd Graham Usher
Bishop of Dudley