Bishop Philip shares his Christmas message

Well, where to start when thinking about 2022?! It has certainly been a year of change and it has at times felt like a year of chaos.

For many of us this Christmas will not be the usual celebration with food and gifts in abundance. Many people in our communities facing the unimaginable task of choosing between heat and light, food and fuel. The numbers of people in poverty and without a home of their own have risen here in Cornwall and continue to do so.

Our political system has struggled to focus on these problems, and indeed has added to the chaos as we have seen three prime ministers this year alone.

For the last 70 years we have been blessed always to have the strong, steady hand of our Queen to guide us. Together we celebrated her Platinum Jubilee in June with great joy and pride. But just when her stable calm influence was perhaps needed most, we lost her and the nation was once again brought together, this time in mourning.

And now we have a new King who, in this time of great change and challenge, we must hold in our prayers.

Looking at our wider world, we stood aghast as Ukraine was invaded and we opened our arms to many of her people providing safe harbour and sanctuary to many here in Cornwall. Sadly, we still need to continue to pray for peace in that troubled land.

I visited Lebanon in October and was very struck by the faithfulness of Christians in a context where the economy has all but collapsed. I was horrified afresh too by the stories I heard of those who had been persecuted for their faith.

And in our diocese too we have been facing up to the challenge of change as we seek together to be fruitful and sustainable in a post-pandemic world. It hasn’t been easy but we are beginning to see the first green shoots of what is to come.

All this change inevitably causes some fear and uncertainty. Change is hard because as humans, we are drawn to the comfort and safety of familiarity.

But the Christmas message is that we are not alone in the changes and chances of life. In Jesus our God entered fully into the reality and the vulnerability of our life here on earth.

There are two Christmas carols with contrasting lyrics, only one of which can be right.

In ‘Away in a manger’ we sing, ‘The cattle are lowing , the baby awakes, but little Lord Jesus no crying he makes.’

But in ‘Once in Royal David’s City’ we sing, ‘He was little weak and helpless, tears and smiles like us he knew.’

And that’s the right one. Jesus entered fully into the changes and chances of this life, so of course he knew tears and smiles just like us – and not just in his childhood, but throughout his life.

And that carol goes on with some really important words – because he shared our tears and smiles, it tells us that ‘he feels for all our sadness and he shares in all gladness.’

However confusing we might find life, our God knows all about it, because in Jesus he became one of us and lived amongst. And he is with us still.

So whatever challenges and changes you may face this year, please know that you do not face them alone. Our God is with us, and he will never leave us nor forsake us.

And in that light of that assurance, may you indeed have a very Happy Christmas.

* Thanks to St Francis School (St Francis C of E School) in Falmouth for the lovely singing x

Post expires on February 19th, 2023

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