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A Christmas message from the Bishop of Chester

PUBLISHED: 00:00 24 December 2014

The Bishop of Chester, left, having some musical fun with the Lord Lieutenant of Cheshire, David Briggs at Cr8, a church-supported social enterprise on the Moss Rose estate, Macclesfield

The Bishop of Chester, left, having some musical fun with the Lord Lieutenant of Cheshire, David Briggs at Cr8, a church-supported social enterprise on the Moss Rose estate, Macclesfield

(c)Folio Photography

A Christmas message from the Bishop of Chester, the Rt Revd Dr Peter Forster, for Cheshire Life readers of all faiths, or none

This year has seen the arrival of our first two grandchildren, a boy and a girl. I had rather forgotten what childbirth, and babies, are like. If it was men who gave birth, I suspect the population of the world would be much smaller than it is.

According to Christian belief, God decided to reveal himself to us by being born among us, to human eye just like any other baby. It is an extraordinary claim, which other religions understandably find rather difficult to comprehend.

Devout Jews 2,000 years ago were expecting their Messiah to be a new warrior king, following in the footsteps of King David, who would kick the Roman occupiers out of Israel and restore national life. They really weren’t expecting a baby, and not least one born in a stable because there was no place at the inn.

To Christian understanding, it’s a story of love unlimited. God shows us his vulnerability in the most profound way imaginable, as he journeys from Bethlehem to the Cross. It is the vulnerability and self-sacrifice of love. He then invites us to a corresponding vulnerability, to a reciprocal love, both of him and those around us.

Just as Jesus was totally dependent on his Mother, as all babies are, so he invites us to acknowledge our vulnerability, and total dependence on him, in love. We are invited to acknowledge our adoption into God’s family, as children of God, and to call him Father.

I fully understand that many people find this hard to believe, or to accept. If devout Jews 2,000 years ago weren’t expecting it, why should we?

Yet the Christmas story has become part of our cultural landscape, simply because it’s a love story – the ultimate love story. And that’s why those who find its religious dimension hard to accept can nevertheless join in the spirit of the Christmas season. It is a universal spirit.

The most important thing in life is to be loved, and to know that we are loved. Christmas is a story of belonging and being loved. That’s why it has such a lasting appeal.

+ Peter

The Rt Revd Peter Forster is based at Chester Cathedral.

For full details about services and events at Chester Cathedral, visit www.chestercathedral.com

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