The past year has been challenging in so many ways for our country and our world. War continues to break the peace and justice of our global family. Poverty continues to steal human dignity. The lives of so many are disregarded as insignificant, and dislocated from their families and homeland. How we need to hear the message of God’s love which radiates from Bethlehem.
So many people today find themselves in solidarity with Mary, Joseph and the new born Lord Jesus. Their circumstances were far from ideal – lodging in a strange place, with few home comforts. They had so little, not even a proper cot for their baby. Jesus, Mary and Joseph speak to anyone whose life is a struggle and who feel alone. The baby Jesus is born as Emmanuel, God with us. Mary and Joseph find new hope because Jesus is God is with them. Jesus is God with us. Jesus is God with you.
In the Christ Child we have a gift that no one, and no thing, can take away. He is a gift given freely: ‘Where meek souls will receive him still, the dear Christ enters in.’ God, through his Son, makes a gift to us, no matter who we are, no matter what has happened, or is happening, in our life. God in Christ is beside us and within our hearts. God in Christ is with us when everything’s going right. God in Christ is with us when everything’s going wrong.
The Lord Jesus entered our world so that we could enter his world. He is with us in the pain of regret. He is with us is the anguish of separation. He is with us in the darkness, when we are frightened, when it all just seems too much. What does Christmas mean? It means we are never alone or abandoned. It means you are never alone because God is with you. And so words from a simple carol become our prayer: Be near me, Lord Jesus; I ask you to stay close by me forever and love me I pray.
May God bless you and those you love this Christmas and throughout the New Year of 2023.
+ John Wilson Archbishop of Southwark