A special Christmas message to the people of Berkshire from the Rt Revd Philip Egan, Bishop of Portsmouth.
As I write, I am on my way home from a truly inspiring conference in Rome.
It was entitled Humanum, and was opened by Pope Francis. It featured speakers from many of the world’s religious traditions, including Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, Pastor Rick Warren, Professor NT Wright, Dr Jacqueline Rivers and the Most Revd Charles Chaput, as well as leaders from within Islam, Sikhism, Jainology, and others.
What brought all these world religious leaders together?
In short, this conference wanted to seek what is common to us all – a vision for the gift of marriage and family life.
We watched some moving videos on this theme throughout the conference. (I encourage you to look up “Humanum” on YouTube and watch the six videos in this series.)
What comes across strongly in these videos is a sense that every human person has absolute value, is worth everything, and is created to receive an unspeakable love.
As Christians, we know and have experienced that this Love takes on human form in Jesus – he is Love itself.
At this beautiful season of Christmas, we witness just how exquisite and unimaginable God’s love is.
Not only does God tell us he loves us; he shows us exactly what this Love looks like when he becomes human, a tiny baby – completely vulnerable and dependent on others. God – who created all things and is utterly self-sufficient – became One who needs others.
He entered a human family, reliant on a human father and mother. In doing this, he sanctified or made holy family life. He showed us that in our families we can become saints; families prepare us for Heaven.
Of course, families are complicated, messy, and often broken in many ways.
For some, they are the source of hurt, and nowhere is this felt more than at Christmas.
Christmas reminds us of the Love we yearn for most deeply and when we don’t experience that, we can feel desolate.
However, because God humbled himself to become a baby, we can be sure that – whatever our families are like, however lonely we may be – we are truly never alone. God is with us. He has come to dwell among us. We can turn to him in our hearts and know that he loves us with Love that is enough for us.
At this great Feast of Our Saviour’s Birth, I wish each and every one of you a happy and holy Christmas!
The Rt Revd Philip Egan is the Bishop of Portsmouth