A Christmas message from the Primus

December 23, 2023

The Most Rev Mark Strange, Bishop of Moray, Ross & Caithness and Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, offers this message at Christmas.

Glory to God in highest heaven, and on earth, peace to all in whom God delights.

So sang the angels as they told the shepherds of the birth of Jesus. This week across the world those words will be proclaimed in nativity plays and carol services; in places filled with joyful worshippers, excited for the festivities to come.

But they will also be proclaimed on battlefields and in refugee camps. They will be heard in Israel and Palestine, in Russia and Ukraine and in the darkest places in our own communities. They will be heard by people who have little to be excited about or to look forward to.

Yet in all these places it is the same message: the message of Peace, the Christmas message of Peace on Earth. Many of those who gather to listen to the Christmas story are seeking the same thing, a place and time of peace.

Too often those same people find themselves caught up in conflict, poverty and loneliness, yet all are those in whom God delights for God delights in creation, in us and in the wonders that we perform.

So I ask that we consider what we do this Christmas. Do we hear the angels cry, then we smile and drop off back to sleep around the campfire, or do we get up and go to find the Christ child?

Do we put the call for peace into action? Do we gather with Jesus and demand justice and security for all? For let me assure you, God delights in all of us, God reveals that in his love for us through the life, death and resurrection of the child we gather to celebrate this Christmas.

Last Christmas we prayed for those caught in conflict in Ukraine, and one year one, we pray for them again, and this time they are joined in our prayers by those whose lives are under constant threat as war wreaks its terrible toll in the Middle East. In the Holy Land. We pray for a permanent ceasefire there, and call on our leaders to see that peace is the only way forward, while the war they pursue or facilitate will only deepen the wounds.

Against that backdrop, how can we rejoice at this time, when there is so much suffering? But rejoice we must, as we retell the story of the love that came down to us, and all the time remembering that we are called not simply to listen to the angels but to respond, to be the peacemakers, in our homes, in our communities and in our hearts.

God bless you and may you rejoice at Christmas wherever you find yourself.