In 1914, a young soldier wrote home to tell his family and friends about Christmas spent in the trenches of World War One, “It was a memorable day,” he said, “from Christmas Eve to Boxing Day, not a shot being fired.
In this centenary year, we’re again reminded of the importance of these brief informal truces, which gave soldiers on both sides a moment’s respite from that violent conflict and which, in the decades since, have come to symbolise the power of Christmas to bring people together, even in the most challenging of circumstances.
At the heart of this festival is the birth of Jesus Christ, a time of joy and celebration for Christians around the world. Yet the core values this story represents – love, charity, hope – are universal, speaking to and uniting people of all faiths and none.
This Christmas and beyond, we can each do our bit to help secure the fairer, more peaceful world that the soldiers in 1914 longed for and our children deserve: reaching out to those people – wherever they may be – who feel isolated, who are caught up in conflict or who need our help.
And this is also our chance to say thank you to the countless men and women working so hard at home and abroad to keep us safe and well over the festive period. That includes, of course, our armed forces and their families who sacrifice so much for our country, our emergency service workers and all those caring for others this Christmas.
Thank you and may I wish everyone a merry Christmas and a very happy and healthy New Year.