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Cumbria Times
A Voice of the North
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5:00 AM 25th December 2020
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Christmas Message From The Archbishop Of York

Stephen Cottrell, Archbishop of York
Stephen Cottrell, Archbishop of York
Last year I had the great joy of visiting New Zealand. It feels like a trip made in a different world. All those things have been denied us this year.

I was speaking at a conference on mission. My wife, Rebecca, came with me and when the work bit of the trip was done, like a couple of gap year students we hired a camper van and went exploring.

Because it was winter (our summer) many of the sites we visited were delightfully quiet and peaceful. One of the most unusual places was Wai-O-Tapu Park. It has all of the ingredients you might expect from a New Zealand beauty spot; unspoilt rocks, ferns, and trees nestled around lakes. But what makes this place remarkable are the weird colours. The glooping escape of geothermal gasses through mud and hissing geysers have upset the colours you would expect to see. Soil is white, rocks are orange and water is bright green or red. There is something wonderfully unsettling about seeing the familiar in a startlingly different way.

The day after the birth of Jesus Christ, the houses of Bethlehem, the harbours of the Mediterranean and trade routes of the Middle East all looked the same. But for Mary and Joseph, the shepherds and Magi everything was startlingly different. God’s familiar creation was now represented in a new and unsettling way. Jesus is a baby just like any other, yet his birth means that God’s life is joined to our life. Our humanity is hallowed. Our belonging to each other revealed.

This year our familiar world has also looked different. But not in a good way. We have been isolated from each other, many have died. Thousands more have suffered. The economy is on its knees.

The new way of looking at the world that we see in Christ also provides the clue for building a better, more colourful world, when we get beyond Covid. It starts by recognising our common humanity, our belonging to a global community, our recognition of the values and hopes that unite us.

There has been nothing good about Covid19. But some good can come out of it.

Can I invite you to Bethlehem this Christmas, so that you can see there what our humanity could be like if we loved one another and if all were welcomed in.

I wish you a peaceful and colourful Christmas.

Stephen Cottrell
Archbishop of York