The Right Reverand Peter Doyle
Bishop of Northampton
Nativity plays tell the story of the birth of Jesus Christ.
I recently went to the MENCAP Carol Service in Northampton Cathedral.
I was meant to speak after the Nativity had been acted out. The adults with disabilities took the roles of Mary and Joseph and of the shepherds and the angels. With great dignity and feeling they built up the scene of the birth of Jesus.
True, baby Jesus was plonked unceremoniously into the manger. But they were so moving that when I came to speak, I found it difficult to open my mouth.
To cover my confusion, I sat down among those who had created this special place in the heart of the Cathedral. That simple act of sitting down had a profound effect on me. Suddenly, all of us were together, on the same level.
There was a real joy in sharing the same space and no one being in charge!
When Jesus was born, it was all about God and man sitting down together. Jesus, true God and true man, was born to share all our joys and sorrows, to be on the same level as you and me.
He was the same as us in every way except for sin, sin which divides us and destroys creation. He came to heal us, to forgive us, and to bring us hope and new life.
You probably don't associate Christmas Day with sitting down. Well, not till after Christmas lunch! Perhaps you are already busy preparing that lunch or coping with excited children.
There is so much to do today. But can you press the pause button, can you sit for a moment, for a moment to see what is good in your life and for a moment to share that goodness?
Peter Doyle was appointed Bishop of Northampton in 2005
Whether you believe in God or not, I want you to enjoy Christmas Day, embracing in your heart those around you. If you are blessed with a family, focus on the pluses when you sit down together. It is all too easy to go into negative mode.
A special birthday
Many of us who are believing Christians will have sat down together at Midnight Mass or will be at church this morning welcoming the Christ who has come among us.
Of course, opening my heart to Jesus, sitting with him, is a challenge. His very goodness challenges my own self-centredness but it also lifts my ability to do good.
Like the adults with disabilities at the Carol Service, Jesus touches my heart by coming down to my level and being born in the stable at Bethlehem.
However you look at the world, and whatever you are hoping for today, may God touch your heart with his love for you. After all, he sent his only Son because he loves the world so much.
May the birthday of Jesus add a richness to your Christmas Day. In Jesus, God has stepped down from heaven and sits down with us. God wants us to know he loves each one of us to bits. When you sit down with family and friends today, know that God is with you.
So, to end with a prayer, "Lord, with faith and joy we celebrate the birthday of your Son. Increase our understanding and our love of the riches you have revealed in Jesus born of Mary. Amen."
A very happy Christmas to you!