Bishop of Exeter's Christmas message

PUBLISHED: 13:54 22 December 2008 | UPDATED: 22:48 15 June 2010

Of all the carols that we shall sing this Christmas the one that may have the greatest resonance this year could be 'In the bleak mid-winter' with its sense of a cold wind blowing, harsh conditions and a struggle to survive.

Of all the carols that we shall sing this Christmas the one that may have the greatest resonance this year could be 'In the bleak mid-winter' with its sense of a cold wind blowing, harsh conditions and a struggle to survive. For many of us this year, in the midst of fears of recession, rising fuel bills and job losses, it feels a bit like that. But this is where the Christmas story, with its poor shepherds and wealthy wise men, is so relevant to us now. Both rich and poor came to see this new baby and it mattered not in the slightest which they were, for in God's order of things these are not what counts. Wealth is not bad and poverty good, and neither is the opposite true, for these are not the real measure of things. What matters first is that God's love - and his words of hope and peace and justice - come to all, rich and poor alike. But secondly there is the question of our individual response. The key to everything is always 'what happens next'. The measure always lies in the sequel and what we do with the circumstances which we have. As you start to sing the words of Christina Rossetti's carol 'In the bleak mid-winter' it is hard not to be thinking: "In conditions like that, what would I want? What would I need?" But the carol ends with a different question: 'What can I give him?' This Christmas if money is tight it is worth thinking that many of the things most people truly want - love, understanding, security, hope, are precisely the things that most of us are able to give, whether we are rich or poor or just finding things a struggle this Christmas. What actually matters, for you, for me and for everyone else as we live our lives this Christmas, is what happens next. Rt Revd Michael Langrish Bishop of Exeter

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