One of the great joys and privileges of being Archbishop of York is that I get to encounter all kinds of different people from all walks of life.
People are amazing - and there’s no folk quite like Yorkshire folk! From knitting scarves for North Yorkshire to supporting the Tour de Yorkshire, there is a desire to make a difference and to make things happen. The local primary school in Bishopthorpe have sent off more than 350 shoe boxes full of toys, toiletries and clothes to Romania to share in the joy of Christmas with others.
I am also constantly struck by people’s capacity for goodness and compassion often in the midst of adversity, hardship or pain.
One shining example has been the family and friends of precious York schoolgirl Katie Rough. They have sought to bring some light and hope to others in the face of unimaginable grief and pain.
A group of eight of them, including Katie’s dad and sister, raised thousands of pounds by completing the Great North Run. It will pay for the education and medical care of two Ugandan children of Katie’s age for the next ten years.
As the team told me: “If we can help another child or children overcome poverty and adversity, at least some good will come out of our loss.
How beautiful is that? This is the Christmas story in action. This is what light overcoming darkness actually looks like.
Despite what all the TV adverts might tell us, I’m well aware that for many people Christmas is the hardest season of the year.
It can be a time of despair, hopelessness, fear and frustrated hope.
I’ve been struck afresh recently how the carols we sing really reflect both the joy and pain of our lives. In ‘It Came Upon The Midnight Clear’ we sing about life's crushing load, Whose forms are bending low, Who toil along the climbing way. With painful steps and slow.
That might paint a picture for the way some of you are feeling at the moment.
Well, I want to encourage you that the Christmas story absolutely recognises the hardship of life - but reassures us that the birth of Jesus Christ in that filthy stable was the light coming into and overcoming our dark world.
As the angel tells the shepherds: ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people..”
Jesus Christ came to bring hope, peace, joy and the promise of new life, of eternal life for all the people. For you. For me. For those loved ones we’ve lost. For those yet to be born. I think it’s the best news there is.
So let me encourage you to remember that there’s no situation so dark, no grief so great, that the light of Christ can’t penetrate and overcome.
Emmanuel - God is among us. And it’s my prayer that in the midst of whatever life is throwing at you right now - good, bad or ugly - that you also experience a sense of deep joy this Christmas.
May you have a blessed and peaceful Christmas.
This article was published in the York Press on 23 December 2017