Christmas is a great Christian Festival: it is the time when Christians celebrate that, when things seemed at their darkest, hope and new life came quietly into the world to change the way people lived.
It also allows a period in the year when people of all faiths and beliefs can reflect on their lives and spend time with their friends and families, a chance to relax and have some enjoyment.
In this world there is much happening at the moment: war, famine and the presence of terrorism.
Financial uncertainty will be with us all in 2009, but we must not be daunted by any of this. There will be people who are separated this Christmas from their loved ones, whether in hospital, care homes or because they are in places of war, but some will be separated by the domestic demands of the festive period. Shop workers, emergency services workers and health staff.
I hope Christmas is a good time for you all. If it is, be thankful, if not; be hopeful!
Please do all you can to make Christmas different and if possible make a difference this Christmas for other people. Please give, contribute or support in any way that you can; those that are particularly vulnerable at this special time of year, such as the homeless, and other vulnerable people who are aged or ill and live alone. Those outside these shores who are subjected to famine, war or natural disasters also need our help.
I have learnt during this year that there is much valuable work being done by people of all faiths and from all walks of life, and I am especially grateful to all those in our community who all year round volunteer and give time to run local groups, social activities and raise funds for charities.
I wish that you all will share in the goodwill of this time of year.