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Some will find it very hard to be festive this Christmas, says the Most Rev Mark Strange, Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church and Bishop of Moray, Ross and Caithness

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The Christmas story is about a family struggling to find a place to rest, says Bishop Mark Strange.
The Christmas story is about a family struggling to find a place to rest, says Bishop Mark Strange.

Earlier this month, I was in Uppsala in Sweden for an important church service and for the first time this year I began to sense that anticipation of the coming of Christmas.

There was a touch of snow on the ground, it was very cold and on the main street the Salvation Army band were playing carols. The lights were on the shops were busy and the pastries were wonderful!

I could have been convinced for a short time that things are just like they always are, yet it is clear that this Christmas some will find it very hard to be festive.

The cold weather has also eventually arrived in Scotland and so too has the real concern about how to keep warm and about how to provide enough healthy food for many struggling families.

These concerns are nothing new, every year people struggle with the Christmas season, people put themselves in debt as they attempt to provide a “real” Christmas for their families.

The problem seems to be that the only people creating the image of a “Real” Christmas are those who are in the business of selling it to us.

What is Christmas? For those of us who have a Christian faith, it is the arrival of God among us, it is the story of the birth of the child destined to bring salvation.

For followers of other faiths, there are parallels with the service of light and rebirth and for many others it is the moments of celebration in the darkest part of the winter, we need to celebrate, to lighten the darkness to rejoice at the turning of the year. Yet that celebration shouldn’t bring about such anxiety and concern amongst people.

The Christmas story is about a family struggling to find a place to rest, unable to come into the inn, a child visited by shepherds who had heard a remarkable story from remarkable messengers, who proclaimed peace and goodwill.

Those of us who also seek such things or believe such things to be possible will start our Christmas plans by asking, “What can I do to bring this season of goodwill to my community”.

Inverness Cathedral.
Inverness Cathedral.

This year, we need to be prepared to give generously to those who are providing warmth and shelter, food and gifts. To offer something of ourselves to those we live amongst.

My Christmas is made in the singing of one verse of one carol, “Ye Lord we greet thee born this happy morning”.

As we sing this in the Cathedral, I will be as emotional as I always am, and I will pray that this will be the Christmas when the message of the angels is proclaimed. Goodwill to all, care for all and share our riches with all.

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