The Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, writes:

My dear sisters and brothers,

The much loved carol ‘In the Bleak Midwinter’ by Christina Rossetti was originally written as a poem called ‘A Christmas Carol’. She penned this as a reminder of the joy of knowing Christ, a reminder of the radical grace of God. A reminder that in the midst of the cold, dark winter, the hope of the Christmas story, the joy of the Christ child, breaks through into our midst.

This year, more than ever perhaps, we are confronted by the bleakness of winter. It is not only the starkness of the winter landscape (after all, fairy lights still twinkle merrily) but the bleakness of two years of crisis upon crisis. Global pandemic, political turmoil, war, cost of living crisis, hungry children, starving nations, barren earth – these are all bleak and mean that many people will be contemplating the Christmas holidays with dread.

And yet, even as we think about the reality of our world and how our actions and decision affect one another, we remember that we are God’s people, that this is God’s earth, and God promised that the darkness will not overcome the light.

So now more than ever we need to preach the Good News the Christmas story ushers in. We need to remember who we are and whose we are – God’s children, beloved of God. And no crisis can change that. The world may be an uncertain place, it may be bleak, but God is certain and unfailing.

And so we will do what we always do – we will host Christingle services; we will sing carols; we will eat mince pies and drink mulled wine; and eventually, on Christmas Day, we will wish one another ‘Merry Christmas’, not because the world is perfect and without problems, but because we believe that Emmanuel, God with us, calls us to live the hope of the Gospel and tell of God’s grace for all people. May this grace dwell in our hearts this Christmas. May we live out this grace in all our actions. May we preach Good News in the bleakness. May our lights shine for Christ in the darkness.

I wish you all a merry Christmas and a blessed 2023.

+ Stephen Ebor: