The Most Rev Mark Strange, Bishop of Moray, Ross and Caithness and Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, gives his Christmas message from the Bishop’s House at Arpafeelie.
“I’m bringing a Christmas and New Year message together as we begin to consider what life is going to be like in the year 2022,” says the Primus. “We made all sorts of predictions for 2021 which in the end have, in some cases, proven to be accurate; but we’re still caught in this pandemic.
“I’m sitting here at Bishop’s House beside the family crib. This is a Philippines crib given to me by pupils and staff of Warndon Junior School, where I had my first incumbency on the outskirts of Worcester. It’s very precious to me because it’s been with me a long time. It reminds me of some of the earliest ministry I have, and of those early Christmases as the vicar of the parish. And of course, that brings nostalgia: for what things were like, for what I might have been like, and that sense of reflecting on what has been. The angel above the crib is even older. That comes from a crib set that I was given when I was really quite young. And so it’s quite possible for me to sit here and consider the overpowering sense of what things used to be like, what I want things to be like.
“For many of us, that’s the problem with Christmas. We conjure up in our minds all sorts of glorious things to do with family, snow, wonderful gifts, and the freedom to do precisely what we want to do. And now for the second year running, we find ourselves under a degree of restrictions. That doesn’t actually change Christmas. Christmas isn’t about all those things we remember. It isn’t about children. It isn’t about families. It isn’t about snow.
“It is actually about the birth of a child, born as the family travelled, born in a place where there was no room so they were huddled into a corner. Born with nothing extraordinary – well, that is until the angel spoke to the shepherds. A kind of birth that happens across the world. You know of so many people who are on the road, people who are traveling people who are in some cases risking their lives to travel. Babies are born in the most unusual places all the time. So it’s not about the stable. It’s not about those wise man. It isn’t simply about this family. It is about this member of the family. It is about Jesus. It is about that relationship between God and us. It is about God loving us so much that he enabled through all the wonderment of God’s great glory to allow Jesus His Son to be born among us. To learn what it was to be like us and ultimately to give his life for us.
“So however much I might be wishing things could be as the Christmas cards show me, nothing will diminish for me the overwhelming joy of being reminded on this, Jesus’s birthday, that the greatest gift that we have is him. The greatest gift we have to share is Jesus. And the most powerful thing we have to tell the world is just how wonderful this story is now and always has been. A story of love, a story of hope, and a story of salvation.
“A very happy Christmas to you and a blessed new year when it comes. Let’s not spend our lives looking backwards, but looking forwards to the opportunities we have to tell the story of this child – to reveal His glory in the world, to be like the angels: saying out loud: “Glory to God and the highest and peace to God’s people on Earth.”