A Christmas message from the Most Reverend John Wilson, the Archbishop of Southwark:
The holy celebration of Christmas invites us to remember what really matters in life. At the centre of Christmas is the birth of a child, the Son of God, defenceless and vulnerable. This new-born is totally dependent on those around him to provide love, food and shelter.
We share the responsibility of providing for each other, especially for our weaker brothers and sisters. We all need protection in one way or another. Someone has to love us enough to speak up for us. We are all vulnerable, carrying our hurts and in need of healing. None of us is wholly self-sufficient, even when we think we are tough enough to cope. In short, whoever we are, whatever our situation, our differences or our difficulties, we need each other; more than this, we really do depend on each other.
God showed us how much we are loved when he sent his Son into the world. The Gospel that Christ brings is not simply a manifesto for living well. It is a call to change our hearts, to realise who we are and who God is. The Lord Jesus does not simply call us to goodness. He invites us to holiness, to live in close relationship with God the Father so our lives can mirror his love for every human life and for the whole of creation.
This essential Christmas perspective on life is not just for the 25 December, but for each day. Without it, we might be tempted to prioritise and prize success, power, and wealth above everything else. When we do this the weak and the poor always suffer most.
But the tiny Christ-child of Bethlehem, the Prince of Peace, points to another way, a better way. ‘As I have loved you,’ said the Lord Jesus, ‘so you must love each other.’ Whatever our religion, our politics or our philosophy, the basic demand of our common humanity is to love others, especially the weakest and the poorest, the neglected and the abandoned. When we do this, Christ is born in us anew and, through us, into our world. We can hear this and ignore it. Or we can hear it and bring about change.
At Christmas and into the new year, our communities and country need the unity and harmony taught by the nativity. There is a space in the stable for everyone, with no exception. Each of us has an active part to play in loving others and it begins in the simplest ways. If we want a better society, country, and world, then we have to start by loving the people around us. This is the example of the Lord Jesus. It sustains our hope that a new future is possible.
Will all our festive babble die out with the pine needles that drop off our trees? Or will the Christmas perspective of love be planted in our hearts, to grow and shape who we are and how we live? We each have a choice to make. Love can be all around us, but only when it begins within us.
Dear friends, may the love of God, made flesh in the birth of Christ, find a new place in you this Christmas. May God give us new courage to love those we find difficult, those who are different, who do not look or think like we do. And may God bless you, your families, and loved ones, this Christmas and throughout the coming year.
+ John Wilson
Archbishop of Southwark