'The words of our hymn are Joy To The World not just to fellow believers but to all men and women of good will'
Christmas has a way of bringing us together almost despite ourselves. The festive spirit touches all of us. Call it the Christmas bug. It is highly infectious. Every business and social organisation has its Christmas party.Most of us overindulge and regret it the next day. And if one party doesn't do it in itself there is the sheer number of social obligations we have at this time of year.By the time we get to the day itself many of us just feel partied out. We could dismiss this all as superficial but I am a ‘glass half-full' person and I believe there is no disputing the good cheer that goes into all this.And who can deny the need for sheer fellowship in reducing the pressures and tensions we live with year round? On a more sombre level we also unite around a heightened consciousness of the disparities in our society.In thinking about our current economic situation and how gloomy it looks and feels I realized that in over 30 years of ministry I cannot think of a Christmas when I was not made deeply aware of the needs around us.All this awareness releases a flood of generosity which enables many who have little to experience much at Christmas.This also prompts us, year by year, to wonder what difference we could make if we were to maintain the momentum we develop over the Christmas season for the coming year.Could we harness some of the emotion which drives us at this time of year and develop some community strategies to encourageing year round the personal desire to share which we feel at this time of year?I am speaking here of sharing on a personal level which could so effectively complement the more formal efforts of ‘foundations', charities and government. We fill food boxes for the poor as we leave the grocery stores in the Christmas season. Why not do this year round?Of course I write all this as the Bishop of one of Bermuda's churches. This is a time when all Christian denominations, despite our differences, come to the stable where Jesus was born and gather round the manger in which he lay.To us is born in Bethlehem a saviour who is Christ the Lord. We listen to the message of peace, good will to men and we sing ‘Joy To The World'.Churches join with those who are drawn together for fellowship at this time of year and those who join together in giving to the poor.The words of our hymn are Joy To The World not just to fellow believers but to all men and women of good will.Just to be clear and not get things backwards, the birth we celebrate is the reason we have these seasonal festivities and for this outpouring of generosity.In a very real sense Jesus is the one who draws us together and we could say, draws out the best in us fellowship, generosity and the capacity to see the greater unity that underlies our differences. The challenge to maintain the momentum of good will we experience at Christmas lies there for us as churches as well.I take this opportunity on behalf of Anglicans here and throughout the world to extend the peace and good will of Jesus the babe born in Bethlehem.Let us who are united in our celebrations and in our desire to give at Christmas face the coming year in this same spirit.Patrick, Bishop of Bermuda