Times of hope: Christmas messages from the bishops of our county

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From left to right ; the Catholic Bishop of Shrewsbury, Mark Davies; the Anglican Bishop of Shrewsbury, Sarah Bullock and the Bishop of Lichfield, Dr Michael Ipgrave.

“At a time when more and more people are declaring themselves ‘non-religious’, we are witnessing something quite surprising at this time of year. So many people are touched by the central Christian claim in the mystery of a child born 2000 years ago. Families and communities are not only touched by this story, they are inspired to come together and show renewed generosity, especially to those who need it most.

“To a Christian this is not surprising, as it echoes the striking words of the apostle Paul, who said that the love of God is made visible in Christ. The wonder of Christmas is to see God who is love, revealed in a deeply human way in a very small child. God became truly human while still being truly God. This is what makes Christmas a lasting part of our lives and the life of our society year after year. The timeless message of a “child born for us” continues to speak, to open hearts and to awaken the charity of self-giving. While this can be a Christmas marked by restrictions, we can be sure that the love of God can never be restricted or canceled. While this Christmas may be marked by many uncertainties, like all generations before us, we can be sure that there is a love – divine love made flesh and blood – on which to depend.

“Love resonates in the evangelical story told; the Carols we sing; in the countless cribs represented, and even in the gifts offered to each other. Yet the love of God can be seen year round in so many churches and communities across our county. It is love which becomes supremely visible in the Mass of Christ, which gives its name to these feasts. The same love reflected in action in all the generosity that embraces the needs and sorrows of others. Over the past year, I can certainly say that active charity has not been restricted; rather, it has developed by reaching out to the most isolated and vulnerable people.

“Much of this kindness is only known to those who receive a phone call in times of isolation; or an act of selfless friendship when needed; or practical assistance in the midst of a crisis. In all of these ways, something more is offered than the material value of a gift or assistance. These initiatives make visible to the suffering person what he needs the most: the love of personal concern. A charity that reflects the divine love made visible in the birth of the Child of Bethlehem who taught us without even speaking, that humanity is saved by love, the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus our Lord. In this confidence, we wish each other a very Merry Christmas.

“The ever-changing landscape of our lives as communities and as individuals has been a very real and present experience over the past two years and may leave us feeling uncertain about the future. Reflecting on the challenge of what seems like constant change made me think of a prayer from the nightly prayer service:

“Be present, O merciful God, and protect us during the silent hours of this night, so that we who are weary of the changes and the chances of this fleeting world, may rest on your everlasting steadfastness; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

“God invites us to place ourselves in his hands, to trust and to rest in him, our constant, loving and faithful God. In the Bible we hear these words of the Psalmist: “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High and dwells in the shadow of the Almighty, will say to the Lord:” My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I ‘put My trust.’ (Psalm 91: 1-2)

“God calls us to move beyond our fear and anxiety, whether it is about ourselves, our families, friends, community, work, church, world, or countless other possibilities, and to step into this New Year. with hope.

“We can know that as we move forward we are held close to the heart of God, enveloped in his love, and that he will walk with us through the times to come, for he is a faithful God.”

“Christmas cannot be canceled.

“People are worried that Christmas will be canceled this year. Some even believe that it would be better if the whole of 2021 is canceled.

“It has been another troubling year for the human race and for us as individuals. We have seen turmoil in many countries, disruption of daily life, crises, calamities and dangers across the world and in our own communities.

“When our lives are shaken like they’ve been shaken and shaken, it makes us think about what really matters in life. What is our deepest desire? What do we really want in our lives?

“The superficial responses of more possessions, more comfort, more money, more fame or whatever, but these will no longer satisfy us, and we seek what meets our deepest aspirations.

“Christians believe that our aspirations are fulfilled in the God who knows us and loves us.

“Each Christmas we tell anew the story of this God, who loves our world so much that he chooses to come among us not because he has to, not because we have asked him to, but simply by grace.

“We always start with grace, and we always come back to grace, manifested in the sign of Emmanuel, God with us in Jesus Christ, born as a baby among us.

“No law, no government, no power on earth can nullify the wonder of this birth. I hope you find the time this Christmas to let this wonder fill your heart.

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