A Christmas message from the Rt Revd Dr Peter Forster, The Bishop of Chester

Pope Francis and Bishop Peter Forster of Chester greet each other in St Peter's Square, Rome

Pope Francis and Bishop Peter Forster of Chester greet each other in St Peter's Square, Rome - Credit: Archant

The Bishop of Chester, the Rt Revd Dr Peter Forster, sends a thoughtful message of goodwill to all Cheshire Life readers

And it came to pass. This is how the Gospel of St. Luke introduces the key moments in the Christian story. The whole Bible can be seen as an account of the world’s journey through time, and our place in that journey.

The story of creation in Genesis sets out the poetry of God’s journey of creation: six days, and then he enjoys a rest on the seventh day. The Jewish Sabbath and the Christian Sunday invite us to participate, from our perspective, in a corresponding rest and enjoyment of life.

Today we are used to journeys which, by comparison with past times, are virtually instantaneous.

In November, I flew to and from South Korea for the Assembly of the World Council of Churches, following a visit to Rome. Imagine what the journeys would have been like before air travel was invented.

In other respects too, life seems to have speeded up, with the internet handling a vast and ever-increasing transmission of information on a global scale – and all at the speed of light.

We are living through a social, cultural and industrial revolution every bit as significant as the introduction of steam power, or the internal combustion engine. How do we handle change on this scale, that it might genuinely improve our quality of life?

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One way is to recognise the key moments – the key staging posts – in our lives. We all have moments on our journey which we remember, experiences and memories which act as signposts charting our particular journey through life.

This may be the day we first went to school, or when we first fell in love and the world felt different. It might be our wedding day, and holding our new-born child. Moments of success, or indeed of tragedy. Being with someone close – a parent, perhaps – when they die. We all have our personal set of special memories, by which we make sense of our lives.

In the Bible, Christmas is a key moment, upon which the whole story of God’s journey with his creation turns. Supreme joy and a threatening sadness, represented by Herod’s horrible infanticide, lie uncomfortably close to each other.

At Christmas, as we and the world around us pause for breath, our experiences are set in a sharper relief. Our joys and sorrows can both seem magnified: ‘And he feeleth for our sadness, and he shareth in our gladness’.

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