A Christmas message from the Bishop of Stockport, the Rt Revd Robert Atwell

A Christmas message from the Bishop of Stockport, the Rt Revd Robert Atwell

Christmas is a great time for catching up with family and friends we seldom see. Long, lazy meals are chances to tell old stories, relax and laugh. For some people, of course, the joy of Christmas is muted by sadness or loneliness. When the front door is shut, what surfaces are rafts of unhappy memories. There can be a huge gap between the fantasy world presented by advertisements and the reality we cope with on a day-to-day basis. The fantasy world says life is a series of treats and choices: ‘It’s your call’, ‘Do what you want’, ‘Go on, spoil yourself.

You’re worth it’. Reality is about getting up in the morning and trying to make the best of what faces us. The problem with the fantasy is not just that it isn’t true: it encourages us to slide into forgetting that good community life, like a happy family, doesn’t just happen. It needs the investment of time and energy. Every school, every charity, every parish, every youth club, every residents’ association, every voluntary organisation depends on people giving up time to devote to the community. Without that effort community life withers, and we end up strangers rather than neighbours.

At Christmas we celebrate the gift of God to us in the child Jesus Christ. His birth was no fantasy, but a real event. It took place in a time of political turmoil in an occupied country. Such is the generosity of God, a God who takes risks. The God we thought a stranger, we now discover to be a neighbour and a friend, crying in a manger, inviting our love in return. It’s an encounter which changes and transforms lives.

Let’s enjoy Christmas, the parties and the get-togethers, but come the New Year when we return to the ordinary and the humdrum, let’s also pray that through our celebration of Christ’s birth we may find the time and the energy to give to others, to build community and strengthen friendship. This birth challenges complacency. This birth invites generosity.


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