Christmas gives us a space when we can consider the things that we value most – family, friends and fellowship. It is a time for being hopeful for the coming year and to reflect on the one that has passed.
Looking back, 2013 has been a year when our country pulled together to overcome the challenges we face. Together we have made real progress on strengthening our economy and creating more decent jobs so that people can provide for their families. This progress is down to the efforts of millions who go out and work hard every day, putting in the hours, running businesses and keeping our economy going.
And there are those millions who keep on strengthening our society too – being good neighbours, running clubs and voluntary associations, playing their part in countless small ways to help build what I call the ‘big society’. Many of these people are Christians who live out to the letter that verse in Acts, that “it is more blessed to give than to receive”. These people put their faith into action and we can all be grateful for what they do.
2013 was a significant year for the Christian faith – a year that welcomed The Most Reverend Justin Welby as the new Archbishop of Canterbury and saw His Holiness Pope Francis elected to lead the Roman Catholic Church. Both have come in with exciting plans to rejuvenate their respective churches, which should inspire Christians around the world.
For me, this season is also a time to think about the meaning of Christmas – the birth of Jesus Christ and the hope that gives to millions. In Handel’s Messiah, these words from the Prophet Isaiah are brilliantly put to music: “His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.
With peace in mind, I would like to say thank you to our brave service women and men who are helping bring peace here and around the world; to their families who cannot be with them; and to all the dedicated men and women in the emergency and caring services who are working hard to support those in need this Christmas.
Have a peaceful Christmas – and a very happy New Year.