The Bishop's Christmas message
"I just love and am always struck by the fact that God, the all-powerful creator, humbly asks a young woman, from a back-water little village called Nazareth, to be the mother of his son, Jesus, who is to be the Saviour of the world, and then patiently waits for her response. God loves and respects Mary, his young, humble handmaid, so much that he waits for her free response! So it is with us, God who loves and respects each of us, waits too for our response to his invitation to enter freely into a deep personal relationship with him.
"At first Mary’s heart is ‘deeply troubled’ and full of questions about what God is asking of her. It is also good and natural for us to ask questions of God but, as we see with Mary, there does come a time when our questioning, our being ‘deeply troubled’, needs to give way to a deeper trust in God. So Mary says to the angel Gabriel: ‘I am the handmaid of the Lord, let what you have said be done to me’. As with Mary, so with each of us, God is always inviting us into a deeper personal relationship with him. The truth is, however, that fear or anxiety can so often hold us back from entrusting our lives into the hands of God. We see what God has done in Mary’s life, we see what God has done in the lives of the great saints of our time, and of all times, in the life of the Church. Through them, and maybe also through personal glimpses of God working in our own lives, we all know something of just what God is capable of when people entrust their lives into his hands, but still we hold back!
"The invitation from God to Mary was to trust him, and to entrust her life into his hands, because, as the angel reminded Mary, ‘nothing is impossible to God’, for even her cousin Elizabeth has, in her older age, given birth to a child. So Mary teaches us that God challenges each of us to be more open to him, more trusting, more willing to entrust our lives into his hands. And God does not challenge us, as he did Mary, as he does at times in our own lives, without offering us the support, the help of his grace, his love, in our lives – the same grace that enabled Mary to say to God, ‘let what you have said be done to me’, and to keep faithful to that commitment throughout her life.
"Mary was at first ‘deeply troubled’ by what God was asking of her, but soon we find Mary freely entrusting her life into the hands of God, and experiencing the deep sense of peace that goes with that. Mary has, therefore, much to teach us about entrusting our lives afresh this Christmas into the hands of God. Just as Jesus was born to Mary that first Christmas, so may Jesus be born anew this Christmas in all our hearts and lives.
"A blessed and happy Christmas to you and to all your loved ones!
Rt. Rev. Patrick McKinney,
Bishop of Nottingham."