As I approach my first Christmas in Leicester, I can’t help but reflect on the last seven months since my arrival. It’s been a great privilege to travel the length and breadth of the county and city and meet so many people. The welcome has been wonderfully warm and generous.
The last ten days have captured something of the diversity of the area as I have sung Christmas carols in schools, colleges, universities, prisons, hospitals and churches of many different descriptions (some meeting in pubs and some in ancient buildings). The fact that the Church of England is present in so many different contexts is testimony to the commitment and energy of so many people who give of their time freely and unstintingly.
And we shouldn’t forget that much of this work is done in partnership with other groups. One Roof Leicester is a wonderful example of different faith communities working together to care for people who are homeless.
But as I think of my own welcome here in Leicester, so also I think of those around the world who are fleeing their own homes and wondering if they will be welcomed in a new city or country. This is a dark and fearful world for many people.
So this Christmas, as we sing our carols and contemplate the love of God crossing boundaries, we remember that Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem not only to inspire us to show welcome and hospitality to others, but also to draw all creation back into the welcoming embrace of God. There is no warmer welcome than that of the parent throwing their arms around their child and this is the welcome God offers us.
I wish you a peaceful and joyful Christmas. May God’s love be present in your home.