As I prepare to celebrate Christmas with my family, and we look forward to the joy and happiness of the season, I am reminded, also, that this is a time for reflection and contemplation. Although there have been many things to celebrate in 2021, this has been another very difficult year. The pandemic has continued to disrupt all our lives, and there will be many people this Christmas who will be grieving for those they have lost this year.
I pray that we can all find comfort and hope despite the difficulties we have faced. The prologue to John’s Gospel will be read at many Christmas services and reminds us that Jesus came to live among us as the light of all people: ‘The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it’.
While the pandemic continues to bring uncertainty and fear into our lives, the vaccine has given us confidence that the situation will continue to improve. But across the Anglican Communion many people have not had access to the vaccine, and the effects of the pandemic remain devastating.
We pray for our friends in other countries, particularly those in the Global South, who are not only more vulnerable to the ongoing effects of the pandemic, but will also be the ones to be most affected by the impact of climate change. As the world’s leaders met in Scotland this year to discuss this global crisis, we know that we all bear an individual responsibility for driving this work forward if we are to have an impact in caring for God’s creation.
When we consider our global responsibilities, we look to those less fortunate than ourselves and especially those who have been forced to flee their homes due to conflict around the world. This Christmas we remember that Mary, Joseph and their young baby also ran for their lives shortly after Jesus’ birth. Like many refugees today, the Holy Family were left far from their own community, dependent on others and unable to return to their own home.
The tragic events in the Channel have shocked us all and reminded us of the suffering currently being experienced by so many. I have been overwhelmed by the generosity and dedication of people and churches across Hampshire and East Dorset in helping refugees through campaigns such as Orange Heart and other local initiatives which have been fundraising for the likes of the Red Cross and Refugee Action.
As we reflect on all these challenges, I pray that we can begin to see them as opportunities for us to support our near and distant neighbours – to be faithful in our Christian call to help and serve the most vulnerable in our communities and around the world.
I trust that this Christmas will be a time for reconnection, with the comfort and joy of family, friendship and celebration, whatever form that may take. As we celebrate Christmas and the birth of Jesus, we remember that he is the Light of the World and has come that we may know God the Father. May I wish you all a very happy Christmas.
The Rt. Rev. Debbie Sellin, Bishop of Southampton.