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Bishops Christmas Message 2014 BBC Radio Wilts

by Michael Ford last modified 25 Dec, 2014 06:01 PM

Broadcast on Christmas Day 2014 and repeated on 28 December.

I love the way the Christmas story gets told in lots of different ways, and  just about everywhere – in schools, and village halls, at home and in the High Street as well as in churches and cathedrals. This year I’ve been to Carol Services at a football club, in prison and at a hospice.  In all these very different places the Christmas story gives light and hope. 

It shouldn’t be a surprise; there’s something here for everyone. 

Joseph and Mary travelled to Bethlehem. So Jesus was born in David’s town, not in Jerusalem the big city and centre of power. They were dependent on the hospitality of an innkeeper. Ordinary people trusted by God to play their part.  

The first to hear the good news of the birth of Jesus were shepherds. They were out on the hills around Bethlehem, working men not able to keep all the religious laws, not settled, and not quite trusted by the folk in town.  They were the first to come to see the baby Jesus in whom we see God.  

He is for all the world. That’s the story of the magi, wise men from the east, Gentiles not Jews, Persians, modern Iran.  The love of God is for everyone.

This year quite a few Carol services have included readings from soldier’s diaries about the Christmas Truce a hundred years ago in the First World War. They have told of Fritz and Tommy getting out of the trenches to talk with one another, smoke cigarettes, play football and sing carols. Just for a day they recognised the humanity of the enemy they were trying to kill, and in doing so they found their own humanity as well. 

That’s what we want most of all, to discover in this story about God in a baby what it is be human. 

Look at any baby and you’ll see love come among us. Look at this baby and we can see the hope of the world.

So that’s why we give presents to the people we love and speak to people we don’t often talk to. It’s why we try to include everyone in the celebrations to make sure no-one feels left out.

But for many people these are difficult times. At Christmas we feel the loss of the people we love who have died. 5 youngsters have been killed in road traffic accidents in Wiltshire in the last few weeks. Remember them and remember their families.

It is 7 years since the start of the banking crisis. In our own country there is a growing concern about the increasing gap between rich and poor.  The recent All Party Parliamentary Inquiry’s report on the rise of food banks – to which a number of people and organisations in Wiltshire gave evidence – produced 77 recommendations to feed Britain. It challenges us about what sort of a society we want to be. Standing by the crib in which God’s Love comes among us we pray for all our neighbours.

Last May I was in Bethlehem with a group of pilgrims. We went to the shepherds fields, to Manger Square and the Church of the Nativity. Jesus was here or hereabouts. But the place that made the greatest impact was just outside a tourist shop where the Separation Wall divided Palestinians from Israelis and soldiers stood with guns. 

There are more conflicts and wars in our world at the moment than at any time since the end of the Second World War. We need to make peace.

For if this story of the baby Jesus is true, it has the power to transform lives, overcome conflicts, make peace and show us what it is to be truly human with each other. 

We will want to tell this story any way we can, in every place, for the love of God.

I hope you and all whom you love will have a very Happy Christmas.

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