A Christmas Message from the Bishop of Worcester

Walking down the High Street in Worcester these last few days I’ve been struck by the busyness: lots of people rushing about doing their Christmas shopping. There’s a sense of excitement and anticipation permeating the air and the festive atmosphere has been increased by the establishment of a Christmas market in Cathedral Square where tempting hot snacks are available.

As I observe people I find myself hoping that they will have a fun at Christmas: it can be a wonderful distraction from the problems which beset our nation and the globe, as well as our personal anxieties and troubles. I hope, though, that they will not be distracted from the truth which lies at its heart - “distracted from distraction by distraction. Filled with fancy and empty of meaning”, as TS Eliot put it. I hope that people will see beyond the presents to what they symbolise. We give presents to symbolise our love and Christmas is about God’s love for us.

As you head south along Worcester High Street, the Cathedral is clearly visible beyond the shops and stalls. It stands there four square, as it has done for hundreds of years, to symbolise that truth which lies at the heart of Christmas, the truth of God’s love for us shown forth by being born as a human being.

So my hope and prayer for you is that you might be able to enjoy Christmas – the fun and the food and the presents – but at the same time not be distracted by them from that most wonderful of presents. May you feel God’s love for you in Jesus.

God bless you and a very Merry Christmas to you.

Bishop John.

A Christmas message from the Bishop of Dudley

It was a real treat to be in Bethlehem this year when the Christmas tree lights were turned on - it was a joyous time of music, song and fireworks. Manger Square was full of Christian Palestinians as well as their Muslim neighbours with people united in their delight at being together within metres of the place where tradition holds that Jesus was born.

My joy was tempered by the knowledge that around much of Bethlehem is a huge wall. For Palestinians it is a separation wall preventing them from travelling to their olive groves, or into Jerusalem, without a permit. For Israelis it is a security wall that prevents terrorist attacks. Crossing the checkpoint, with its razor wire, scanners and turnstiles, feels like entering and leaving a prison.

As with walls in many places, it is a living symbol of division. Whilst providing some security, it perpetuates fear and hatred.

In other places there are those non-physical walls that divide communities. Across our Diocese there are huge inequalities of health, employment, and educational attainment, with many people struggling financially this Christmas.

Our current political debates also put up barriers between those who voted in different ways. Our country needs, more than ever, to seek grace and generosity in our political conversation so that there are not winners and losers, just the flourishing of all.

Those who visited Jesus represented the diversity of society. Mary and Joseph were temporarily homeless and were offered a smelly stable round the back of an inn. The shepherds were regarded as being religiously unclean but they were given priority boarding. The Magi travelled from a distant land carrying their mysterious gifts. Angels sang in praise and joy.

Jesus, both in the crib, and throughout his ministry, death and resurrection, brought people together under a vision of a future lived as God would have us be. He is the light of the world. His light can never be divided. It’s always breaking through the cracks of our walls and barriers, bringing hope.

My prayer is that the light and hope of Jesus is yours this Christmas. 

Bishop Graham.