The Bishop of Burnley, Rt Rev. Philip North, has issued his annual Christmas message.
Bishop Philip recorded a video version of his message in Burnley following filming of the annual Community Carol Service at Burnley Football Club. A full text version of the message can also be read below.
The video features footage of the carol service, which included choirs from many of the Church of England and Roman Catholic Primary Schools in the town.
(Special thanks to Burnley Football Club and particularly to Siobhan McNamara and the club's Community Team for their help before, during and after the filming.)
The Bishop of Burnley's Christmas message
It’s lovely at this time of year to listen to the voices of children singing carols.
A recent Community Carol Service held at Burnley FC, featuring children from Church of England and Roman Catholic schools from across the town, prompted a memory of an incident that happened to me and a group of pilgrims from the Diocese while we were in Bethlehem a few weeks ago.
During our pilgrimage, we found ourselves in the shepherds’ fields just outside the city and visited a beautiful church with a wonderful acoustic. But the church was filled with crowds of tourists and pilgrims making a complete racket … the noise drove us bonkers.
So we decided we were going to start singing and a small group of us began to hum the carol ‘Silent Night’ very gently. It turned out that some of the pilgrims were from Germany and they very quickly joined in. Others were from the United States, some of whom started to cry at the sound.
Before long the only sound in that church was the beautiful humming of Silent Night echoing around the building and when we finished singing the stillness in the church was absolutely perfect.
At that moment, we experienced something of the peace of the Christ child.
Bethlehem has always been a noisy city. At the time of Jesus it was a city under occupation; so crowded that the Holy family couldn’t even find any space in the inn. Today it is in many ways the same – in fact it is noisier and tenser still.
As you come into modern-day Bethlehem you cross through a horrible security wall with armed troops patrolling up and down.
Once inside it’s an angry city where poverty and political discord are apparent everywhere. Yet it was to this city the angels came to sing their song of peace, because in Bethlehem God’s son was born.
In Bethlehem, the Prince of Peace came to earth so we, ordinary men and women, can share in the perfect peace which only God can bring.
This Christmas time I hope that you can experience something of the peace of the Christ child in the midst of the noise of Christmas. I hope you can also share it as well.
You can share that peace with your families through your love and your care, your forgiveness and your patience.
You can share that peace this Christmas with your communities through your care for the poor, your love of justice and your desire to work for reconciliation. And you can also share that peace with the world through prayer and through your personal example.
The children from local schools taking part in the Community Carol Service at Turf Moor and watched by their families were doing a very special thing.
They were stopping for a moment to listen to the peace of the Christ child.
I hope this Christmas you can also experience that peace afresh so you can share it with the world.
You could do that by visiting one of our main parish churches across Lancashire for a carol service or on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.
If you aren’t sure where to go, finding the nearest church that suits you and your family is easy!
Just log on to the www.achurchnearyou.com website, which recently had a makeover and features parishes from across our Diocese here in Lancashire or, if you are away from home visiting friends and family, parishes from across the country.
Rt Rev Philip North
Bishop of Burnley