A Christmas message from the Bishop of Chester

Bishop Mark Tanner and his wife Lindsay

Bishop Mark and his wife Lindsay will be spending Christmas Day with family at the Bishop's House in Chester - Credit: Diocese of Chester

The Right Reverend Mark Tanner shares a seasonal message (and a recipe for an alternative pud) and tells how December 25th is the one day of the year when chocolate is allowed before breakfast.

Where is your home in Cheshire? 
We live in Bishop’s House, in the centre of Chester alongside the cathedral. It’s an amazing house with a chapel that is almost a thousand years old, built originally as a private chapel for the monastery founded in 1093.

There is some evidence that there has been Christian worship around the site since late Roman times, and there are clearly Roman remains under the garden. It is pretty mind-blowing to know people have lived on this site for almost 2,000 years and worshipped here for at least 1,000, maybe more than 1,500 years. 

How will you be spending Christmas? 
I’ll be out and about as normal at Christmas; loads of carol services in the month before Christmas, midnight communion on Christmas eve, and visiting one of Cheshire’s prisons on Christmas morning.

After that it is back to the house for a huge lunch with gathered family, tuning in to the Queen at 3pm, and then an evening of games, presents, and general fun… sometimes joking at my expense, not least because I almost always nod off at some point on Christmas afternoon. 

What are your family Christmas traditions? 
There’s quite a lot of music involved, particularly with my wife Lindsay’s side of the family; usually one of her brothers arranges a few pieces so that every level of instrumentalist can join in for a bit of a concert.

We always set fire to the pudding, and almost never get round to the cake until Boxing Day. You have to stand for the national anthem when you watch the Queen and it is one of two days of the year when chocolate can be eaten before breakfast.

I guess the only real oddity I can think of is that the four of us immediate family tend to have a special meal on Christmas Eve afternoon and exchange our presents then as a way of balancing close family life, sharing with the wider church family in worship, and then welcoming extended family on Christmas Day. 

What will be on the Christmas dinner table? 
Crackers! You’ve got to love a good cracker. I hand-made them one year as a bad cracker is such a disappointment: handpicked all the gifts, and found genuinely funny jokes (don’t listen to the kids, they were funny just like all my jokes). 

We go for the traditional turkey dinner, but there will be a vegan option for one member of the family. Then we’ll have Christmas pudding, and we always have Christmas crumble at some point too (tinned peaches spread in a dish, mince-meat dolloped over them, normal crumble topping – cook and then serve with cream or ice cream for a delicious and easy pudding – catering tips from the Bishop) 

What is your Christmas message to the people of Cheshire? 
Stop for a moment and enjoy this time… and then look beyond the tinsel and notice what really matters.

Take a moment to tell friends or family members how much you appreciate them. Don’t faff about if relationships need mending as you will only regret the time you wasted. Spare a thought (and maybe a phone call, text, or letter) for those who find Christmas tough.

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And while you are at it, reflect for a moment on the story that lies at the heart of Christmas: the child born at Bethlehem. For me, the real amazement is that story is actually true, and that changes everything, everywhere, and every day. 

Happy Christmas from all of us at Bishop’s House.