A Christmas Message

By The Rt Revd Graham James, Bishop of Norwich - 10 December 2015
A picture of the Bishop and young people at last year
It’s sometimes rather irritating when you realise your parents were right after all. I remember getting annoyed with my father when he said that time went more quickly as he got older. Now I hear myself saying the same thing. It scarcely seems any time since I was writing last year’s Christmas message. When you are ten years old the gap between one Christmas and the next seems an eternity. It’s one tenth of your life. When you are eighty it’s only one eightieth. Perhaps that’s why we feel time passes more quickly as we grow older.

I found myself thinking about time on a visit to Papua New Guinea this year. The Diocese of Norwich has had close links with the Anglican Church there for more than sixty years. A Norfolk man, David Hand from Tatterford, was their first Archbishop. He died only in 2006 and is revered as a saint in his adopted country.

I went to one of the remotest areas in Papua New Guinea. Our party was given a big welcome. One of the things I noticed was that scarcely anyone had a watch. They couldn’t afford such luxuries, of course, but didn’t need them. Their days are governed by sunrise, work, meals and sunset rather than by the clock. They understand about the passage of time but their consciousness of hours, minutes and seconds seemed much less than ours. One of the Sunday services I took went on for 3½ hours, and not because of the length of my sermon! No one was ever in a rush. People seemed to have as much time as they wanted. They lived in the present moment.  

We speak about “finding time” as if it were a scarce commodity. And yet there are many people in our society for whom time hangs heavy. Loneliness, bereavement, unemployment: such things cause time to pass very slowly indeed. The approach of Christmas can be forbidding. I remember a widow once saying “Christmas Day is the longest day of the year”.

Many churches organise a Christmas Day lunch for people who would otherwise be on their own. The charity Crisis at Christmas does so for people in need all over the country, including here in Norwich. Even so, not everyone who is lonely will want to leave their home, but may appreciate a visit from a neighbour or friend. A day which drags can be redeemed by just a few minutes of human contact.

Jesus was born in an occupied country to bewildered parents, reduced to creating a crib out of an animal feeding trough in a stable. They must have felt lonely and unwanted. But they did have some visitors – shepherds and wise men. Sometimes the best things happen to us when life is at its most difficult. An act of love or a kindly deed can turn the worst of circumstances into the best of times.

A very happy Christmas to you all.

Our thanks to the EDP Norfolk Magazine, in which the Bishop’s Christmas Message also features. Copies of the December edition are now available, priced £3.99. For information about subscribing to the magazine in 2016 please click here.

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