This time of year offers the opportunity to reflect on the special place the Christian faith has at the heart of our national life, and to remember the reason why Christians come together at this time – the birth of Jesus Christ.
But it also gives people of all faiths and none the chance to share goodwill and generosity, compassion and charity.
This Christmas our thoughts are with those whose lives have been turned upside down by the recent floods – people who had expected to spend Christmas in their homes, but who are now clearing up in the wake of Storm Desmond.
Churches across Cumbria, Lancashire and Northumberland are among those playing a valued role in bringing communities together and offering help and support to those in need - and they have been supported by the generosity of people of other faiths, communities and individuals from all across the country.
Throughout the year, councillors and staff in local government and our emergency services have dedicated themselves to serving their communities - they deserve our thanks.
As we get ready to celebrate with family and friends, we think about people less fortunate - such as those who live in fear of violence or abuse in the home and anyone sleeping rough. Our safety net is strong and we remain determined that anybody who needs help, gets it, both now and in the future.
This year savage terrorist attacks overseas were an affront to our values of fairness, tolerance and respect. Values that we all hold dear. Of course there is work still to be done, but those who seek to divide us will never succeed.
We can be very proud of our strong communities and those individuals who selflessly help others of every faith and background.
However you are celebrating this year, I’d like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas.