Lancashire’s three Anglican Bishops have issued their annual Christmas messages to the County. This page features the Christmas message from the Bishop of Lancaster, Rt Rev Dr Jill Duff.
It is available to read below here and to view and share on social media now via YouTube. why not play the message during church services across the Christmas period if you can?
See the other messages from Bishop Julian and Bishop Philip which are also now available in our website news section.
Bishop Jill delivers the YouTube version of her message amidst the Christmas shopping throngs in Preston town centre.
If I could have one word to sum up this year, it would be FAVOUR.
I seem to get to the end of days as the Bishop of Lancaster, literally overwhelmed by God’s favour.
There seems to be a real openness to the gospel across Lancashire, especially among young people.
In parishes, chaplaincies and schools, across our communities, my heart is warmed by dedicated heroes of faith, often serving unseen, not realising how special their gifts are. I also love spotting His coincidences: the calling cards of his Spirit.
It is a time of God’s favour.
“You are highly favoured,” said the Angel Gabriel to the teenager Mary in the Bible. But God’s favour was not quite what she imagined.
The Christmas story can seem remarkably chaotic. There was no room at the Inn; well, it’s always busy at Christmas.
Surely God should have booked ahead? A nice warm delivery suite at the Bethlehem women’s hospital? Not a 60-mile trip on a donkey when Mary was eight months pregnant to deliver her baby in a stable.
Surely all her visions about having a special baby were a figment of her imagination? It’s all in her head.
But in my experience that is precisely how God works …
It often seems that chaos reigns. The very things you’ve trusted Him for; the very things you hope for, start to seem a figment of your imagination.
A fairy tale, it’s all in your head - especially the hope that we all have deep down in our hearts, that one day everything will be OK.
The recent election campaign was the first time in nearly 100 years that we’ve had an election at the same time as doing our Christmas shopping. It doesn’t seem so well planned!
But it’s when chaos is at its height, when hopes are dashed, that is precisely when God turns up.
This Christmas, with the shepherds, let’s tune into his angel choir, who tell it as it really is in the Bible: “Do not be afraid, I bring you good news of great joy for all people. Today, a Saviour has been born to you; peace on earth to those on whom his favour rests” (The Gospel of Luke, Chapter 2)
Some of us are living with incredible levels of fear. I came from a family of worriers: if we could worry about it, we would.
Jesus comes today to save us from fear. He comes to hoover it up and send it back to the place it belongs – which is hell.
And make no mistake … in its place he can bring the opposite: His peace. Peace from heaven itself. Not a top down imposed peace between nations. Or peace on the streets, but peace that bubbles up from within the human heart.
With Jesus the time is always now.
In the Bible it says: “Now is the time of God’s favour, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians, chapter 6 verse 2).
The most incredible gift at Christmas is the start of heaven coming to earth; that Jesus made possible by his birth.
May you know His peace from heaven within your hearts this Christmas.
May His peace overflow from your hearts and flood our nation with rivers of peace that reshape the landscape of our country.
And may you trust Jesus who is telling you - it’s going to be OK.
Why not check out the ‘A Church Near You’ website on the internet? By visiting www.achurchnearyou.com you can find out where there is an Advent and/or Christmas event close to where you live in one of our many parish churches.
And when you visit, why not ask about signing up to a course that gives you the opportunity ask your questions about God and life?
Ronnie Semley, December 2019