Celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, we remember that he is the light who brings us out of darkness. As it says in Isaiah: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined” (Isaiah 9:2).
We celebrate Christmas just after the shortest day in the year, at a time when light begins to re-enter the world, taking us out of the darkest days of winter. The coming of light is a sign of hope, and reflects that hope which Jesus brings to our world. St John says in his Gospel that Jesus “gives life to the world” (John 6:33) through his birth. In amongst the hustle and bustle of preparations for Christmas, we might ask ourselves, how do we bring light and hope to our communities?
Over the past year, people in parishes across Hampshire and Dorset have been thinking about their answers to this question, as we seek to nurture the mission taking place within our communities in Winchester Diocese. Living the mission of Jesus may sound like an impossible challenge, but put simply, it means that we aim to live out our Christian faith by becoming agents of social transformation in our local communities and working for their benefit.
This year we became the first Diocese in the country to appoint an Archdeacon for Mission Development, a senior priest who is supporting our work in this area. We’re proud that recent figures from the national Church showed that over 2,700 volunteers from our churches are supporting children, young people and families across Hampshire and East Dorset, a figure which represents nearly 1,000 more volunteers than the national average. However, we want to grow this work further, and next year we will be looking to explore even more ways in which we can offer support to local people.
In doing this I hope that we too will “give life to the world”, seeking, like Jesus, to be beacons of hope for our local communities. As we celebrate the birth of Jesus this month, my thoughts and prayers will be for all who strive to make a positive difference to their local communities, especially here in Winchester Diocese.
I wish you all a truly happy Christmas and New Year.
The Right Reverend Tim Dakin, Bishop of Winchester