HERE we bring you the Christmas Messaged from the Bishop of Lichfield, the Right Revd Dr Michael Ipgrave.
‘He Came To His Own’
For many people, Christmas involves a lot of visiting. You may have family or friends visiting you in your place; or you may yourself be a guest at somebody else’s; and we will always want to remember those who can neither visit nor be visited by others. On Christmas morning, I will be in a house full of family, mine and my sister’s; we will have Skype conversations with children and grandchildren in Germany, Russia and Canada; and I will be leading worship both in Lichfield Cathedral and in HM Young Offenders’ Institution at Swinfen Hall, a couple of miles from Lichfield. I will ask the young men there: ‘Do you have any message for me to take to the people at the Cathedral?’ and I expect they will say what they say to me every year: ‘Bishop, wish them a Happy Christmas from us and tell them we are praying for them.’
With others and on our own, in our place and in others’ places, in churches and in prisons, here and around the world, wherever Christmas is celebrated we are telling again the story of Jesus who carries the wonderful name Emmanuel, ‘God is with us’. The early visitors at the birth of Jesus were a pretty mixed bunch: shepherds from the hillside; wise men from the east; Mary and Joseph, themselves travelling away from home; angels from the realms of glory; and tradition has added the ox and ass to represent all creation. What they have in common is just this one great gift: that God is with them, Emmanuel.
This is a message of hope, unity and peace for our times. When we look around at our society we so often see division, anger and anxiety. But when we look at the crib of Emmanuel we see one who has crossed the great divide that separates us from the God who loves us; and that should encourage us to cross in love the divides that separate us from one another. Whoever or wherever you are visiting this Christmas, remember that God is with them and theirs as he is with you and yours, because we can all say, in the words of John: ‘He came to his own.’ He has come to us all to make our home his own.
*To find a local Christmas church service in your area visit www.achurchnearyou.com