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King recounts his visit to Bethlehem in his first Christmas address

25 December 2022

He also praises the response of churches and faith groups to the cost-of-living crisis

Alamy

King Charles during his broadcast, recorded earlier in December

King Charles during his broadcast, recorded earlier in December

THE goodness and compassion of individual people has shone an “everlasting light” through “this time of great anxiety and hardship” in the UK and around the world, King Charles III has said in his first Christmas Day speech.

His message, broadcast in the customary 3 p.m. slot, had been pre-recorded on 13 December in the Quire of St George’s Chapel, Windsor, where his late mother Queen Elizabeth II was laid to rest earlier this year (News, 19 September).

The King began by thanking the public for “the love and sympathy” shown since her death. Paying tribute to her life and faith, he said: “In the much-loved carol ‘O little town of Bethlehem’, we sing of how, ‘in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting light.’ My mother’s belief in the power of that light was an essential part of her faith in God, but also her faith in people, and it is one which I share with my whole heart.

“It is a belief in the extraordinary ability of each person to touch with goodness and compassion the lives of others and to shine a light in the world around them.”

This was the “essence” of community and the “foundation” of society, the King said.

“We see it in the selfless dedication of our armed forces and emergency services, who work tirelessly to keep us all safe, and who perform so magnificently as we mourn the passing of our late Queen. We see it in our health and social care professionals, our teachers, and, indeed, all those working in public service whose skill and commitment are at the heart of our communities.

“And at this time of great anxiety and hardship, be it for those around the world facing conflict, famine, or natural disaster, or for those at home finding ways to pay their bills to keep their families fed and warm, we see it in the humanity of people throughout our nations and the Commonwealth, who so readily respond to the plight of others.”

He praised in particular the work of charities, churches, and other faith groups in responding to the cost-of-living crisis, including through foodbanks. “Such heartfelt solidarity is the most inspiring expression of loving our neighbour as ourself,” he said. “The Prince and Princess of Wales recently visited Wales, shining a light on practical examples of this community spirit.”

King Charles appeared standing beside a Christmas tree decorated with ornaments made from sustainable materials including paper and glass. It was a departure from the more recent messages of the late Queen in which she was seated behind a desk, often adorned with framed pictures of family members.

Concluding his speech, the King recounted his January 2020 visit to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, describing this as the fulfilment of a lifelong wish. “It meant more to me than I can possibly express, to stand on that spot where, as the Bible tells us, the light that has come into the world was born.

“While Christmas is, of course, a Christian celebration, the power of light overcoming darkness is celebrated across the boundaries of faith and belief. So, whatever faith you have, or whether you have none, it is in this life-giving light and with the true humility that lies in our service to others that I believe we can find hope for the future.

“Let us therefore celebrate it together and cherish it always. With all my heart I wish each of you a Christmas of peace, happiness, and everlasting light.”

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