REFLECTING on an “extraordinary” year in his Christmas message, the Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, has challenged Christians to be “people who build bridges”.
In the wake of further terror attacks in Europe this week, his message speaks of a “brutal, bloody, divided, torn world that seems at times to be out of control and unpredictable”. He refers to “bitterness” in the wake of the elections in Britain and the United States, but argues that the gospel challenges Christians to show “tolerance and grace to people with whose views we may totally disagree because they are racist, sexist, xenophobic, or full of hate”.
The Bishop of Carlisle, the Rt Revd James Newcome, ponders the increased use of the term “post-truth”. The Christmas story might fare “not too well” in such a culture, he suggests. “A story about angels, shepherds, animals, and a baby sounds very sweet, but it also sounds like something that children love and adults soon grow out of.” Most people want Christmas “to be about an undemanding message of being generally nice to other people. And yet everybody needs some sort of truth by which to live, and that manger on that first Christmas contained the absolute truth; the explosive truth about our creator and about us, his creatures.”
A YouGov survey commissioned by the British Humanist Association found that 91 per cent of the 2022 people surveyed planned to celebrate Christmas. Presented with a list of options to describe what made Christmas “an important time of year to you”, and able to tick as many as they wished, people were most likely to select “spending time with family” (76 per cent), followed by “giving presents” (63 per cent), and “eating Christmas food/drinking Christmas drinks” (57 per cent). A total of 22 per cent selected “celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ”, and 15 per cent “attending a religious service”, fewer than for “watching television” (36 per cent).
Churches continued their preparations. Many are preparing to host meals: St Simon’s, Southsea, will host a supper for people who are homeless, or face problems with alcohol or drug addictions, or mental-health issues. Sunday Supper has been running at the church for 28 years.
Portsmouth Cathedral will host a three-course lunch for up to 60 people on Christmas Day in partnership with FoodCycle, a charity that creates meals from surplus food. In Bristol, more than 100 knitters joined the St Michael’s Yarn Bombers to create a six-foot Christmas tree from more than 800 green woollen squares. After Christmas, the squares will be sewn into blankets for the homeless.
Others turned to social media to spread the Good News. At St Philip and St James, Leckhampton, 28 members of the congregation prepared a “Thought for the Day” to contribute to an online Advent course, watched by 10,000 people. The messages were recorded on mobile phones and published on the church’s Facebook page. Participants were given a reading for each day and a limit of 400 words.
On Monday, Mothers from Hampstead organised a march to Downing Street to draw attention to the case of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian mother who has been detained in Iran since April (News, 24 June). Carols were sung outside the gates, and demonstrators urged the Government to secure her release.
About 26,000 cards and messages are being delivered to Evin Prison, in Tehran, where she is being held, and daffodils have been planted.