by The Right Rev. Stephen Cottrell, Archbishop of York
“The Christmas story is the one bit of the Bible everyone knows. However, we mostly learn it from carols and nativity plays. This often makes it rather too cosy, as if a cow shed at the back of a pub was just the loveliest place to give birth.
The real story is of course a hard one. It is about a teenage mum, a poll-tax summons, what must have been a frightening labour and birth, and ends up with this little refugee family fleeing for their lives, for visiting kings and shepherds had said the child was born to be king and there is only ever room for one on a throne. However, if you read on beyond the Christmas story and find out about the man this child grows up to be, you find he is not a king in ways the world ever imagined.
Christmas is going to be different this year. It is unlikely we will be able to do all the things we want. Perhaps the harder and darker elements of the story will come to the fore, helping us in our isolation to still go on caring for each other and finding new ways of celebrating this story. Christmas still brings great light to the darkness of our world, not least helping us to live by a different set of values. So, as one of the newest residents in York and still getting to know my new neighbours (it is much harder when we are all wearing masks!), can I wish you the comfort and joy of Christmas, a bright light in the darkness of the world.”