The Bishop of Carlisle’s Christmas Message 2020
The Bishop of Carlisle praises NHS staff and all care workers in his annual Christmas message filmed at Carlisle’s Cumberland Infirmary.
The Rt Rev James Newcome – the Church of England’s lead bishop on health and medical ethics - talks of the care and support being offered after a year in which the global pandemic placed huge pressures on the health sector.
Bishop James also reveals that he has recently been poorly after testing positive for COVID, though he did not need any hospital treatment and has since returned to his duties after a period of rest and self-isolation.
Reflecting on a God who cares for the ‘whole person’ - body, mind and spirit - he says: “I found that a real comfort when I contracted the coronavirus a few weeks ago and was physically quite unwell. It is one of the many reasons why I am so grateful to our NHS staff - some of them working away in the Cumberland Infirmary here behind me - and all our frontline carers in their God-given ministry of care, compassion and healing.”
As part of his Christmas message, viewers also see Bishop James join members of the Cumberland Infirmary’s chaplaincy team for their annual carol service. COVID restrictions mean this was held at the Church of the Nazarene in Carlisle, rather than in the hospital itself.
His message reflects on the importance of God becoming flesh through Jesus’ birth and the hope that that offers to us all, especially this Christmas as we continue to face the challenges of the pandemic.
Bishop James said: “It was wonderful to spend time with the hospital chaplains and staff as we met together – suitably socially-distanced – for the annual carol service. My prayers will continue to be with them all, this Christmas time and into 2021.”
To view Bishop James’ Christmas message for 2020 visit the Diocese of Carlisle’s YouTube channel.
Notes to editors
A full transcript of Bishop James’ Christmas message for 2020 is attached below.
“‘The Word – became flesh’.Those four words, from the first chapter of St John’s Gospel, are some of the best known – and most important – in the Bible.‘The Word’ is God. ‘Flesh’ is us.So John is telling us that God – Creator of the Universe, source of all life – became a human being who ‘lived among us’ in a physical body, just the same as yours and mine.That’s what Christmas is all about: God made man in Jesus Christ: The incredible truth on which the Christian Gospel rests: that baby in the manger, worshipped by shepherds, wise men and angels, fully human as well as fully divine.
So what does that have to do with a global COVID pandemic? Well, just about everything I think: but let me mention 2 things in particular. One is that our bodies matter. ‘The word – became flesh’ – because God is Lord of the physical as well as the spiritual and he cares about the material as well as the ethereal.What we sometimes call our ‘eternal soul’ is not some disembodied spirit which floats away from our body when we die (as scientists discovered when they used to weigh dead bodies to detect what had ‘gone’.)The ‘whole’ me is all that I am: body, mind and spirit – and God is concerned with all of me, as the so-called ‘Incarnation’ of Jesus shows.I found that a real comfort when I contracted the Corona-virus a few weeks ago and was physically quite unwell.; and it is one of the many reasons why I am so grateful to our NHS staff (some of them working away in the Cumberland Infirmary here behind me)and all our frontline carers in their God-given ministry of care, compassion and healing.
The second way in which Christ’s birthday relates to our current crisis is through the hope it offers; and that Hope, like the pandemic, is global. ‘What has come into being in him was life,’ says St John. ‘and the life was the light of all people.’‘The light shines in the darkness – and the darkness did not overcome it.’ One of my hobbies is Art History; and one of my favourite pictures is a Nativity scene by the great Flemish artist Geertgen tot Sint Jans.Darkness surrounds the crib – from which there shines an extraordinary light, emanating from the body of the baby Jesus.That light- the light of the word made flesh – is the ‘true light, which enlightens everyone’: and that light is the light which no amount of darkness can ever extinguish; not illness, and not even death (our own, or that of someone we love).Just at the moment we all need that Hope more than ever: so my prayer for you – and for everyone in this great County – is that you may find that Hope – as it finds you – in Christ this Christmas.”
For further information contact Dave Roberts, Diocesan Communications Manager, on 07469 153658, 01768 807764 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.