Bishop Peter's Christmas Message 2021
The ‘O Antiphon’ proclaimed at the beginning and end of the Magnificat at Vespers (Evening Prayer of the Church) on 21st December is:
‘O Rising Sun, you are the splendour of eternal light and the sun of justice. O come and enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.’
These words are picked up at the birth of John the Baptist when his father Zechariah recognises the unfolding of God’s plan in his son who is to be the prophet to go ahead of Israel’s and the world’s Saviour, and Zechariah’s gives praise and blesses God.
Rarely have we needed that eternal light and sun of justice to shine in those places of darkness and upon those who are in the shadow of death around our world at this time; the people of the Philippines, parts of whose country have been devastated by the super typhon; the people of Afghanistan and Yemen whose countries still devastated by civil war now face famine too. These are just a few parts of the world where along with us all continue to be in the grips of the coronavirus pandemic and the death, sickness and fear COVID brings.
However vulnerable we may feel and however restricted our Christmas celebrations may be we still rejoice in the limitless love of the Christ-child, the Word of God made flesh, the ‘eternal light and sun of justice’ born for us.
Heaven comes down to earth, God becomes man and nothing can revoke that expression of love and the promise of a share in eternity.
The middle verses of the 14th century Latin hymn Puer natus in Bethlehem (A child is born in Bethlehem) express it this way:
From Virgin’s womb this child is born,
The Light from Light who brings the dawn.
A new song let us sing: for Christ is born,
let us adore and let our gladness ring
He comes to free us from our strife,
And share with us the Father’s life.
A new song let us sing …
At this the coming of the Word,
O come, let us adore the Lord.
A new song let us sing …
No sorrow, no tragedy, no passing uncertainties, no sin or insecurity should take from us the joy that Life is born and we rejoice in it and join the angel hosts in the proclamation, ‘Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased’.
I wish you and your families a blessed and very happy Christmas even though beset with challenges and difficulties.
May this time of our Saviour’s birth be for you one of health, peace, joy, and thanksgiving; for Jesus Christ is the one who gives the light for us to journey through the darkness of this world, drawing us to the place and joy of His humble birth and into the glory of the Father’s eternal kingdom.
In the Christmas section of the Godwhospeaks website you will find a number of resources and articles to help and inform your celebration of Christmas: https://www.godwhospeaks.uk/the-god-who-speaks/word-at-home/christmas-resources/