Dean John’s Christmas Message
He came as the Light of the World, to banish all deeds and powers of darkness. And as hard as it has tried, the darkness has never been able to overcome that light.
December 22, 2023
It’s Christmas! And we at Ripon Cathedral, like billions of Christians all around the world, are keen to celebrate the birth at Bethlehem of Jesus Christ the Prince of Peace. That was over 2,000 years ago, and yet still makes a difference to the world today, bringing hope and the message of the world’s salvation.
That child, born in a stable, laid in a manger, visited by lowly shepherds and exalted kings alike, was a homeless refugee in his earliest years. And yet, he was the Son of God, come to reconcile the world to God and itself.
St. John in his gospel reaches back to the very beginning of the universe. The Word of God which was there in the beginning of time, through which and for which everything was created, that Word of God became flesh in Jesus Christ – full of grace and truth.
As in the days of Jesus, so it is now, there is much which is wrong and disappointing with the world – wars and conflicts in Europe and the Holy Land, divisiveness within our communities, jealousy leading to betrayal, the threat of catastrophic climate change, not to mention personal and family suffering and disappointment for countless. Signs of the world’s darkness with which we are coping this Christmas.
The miracle is that the birth of Jesus then, still reveals God’s light. And it still assures us that God is with us in every circumstance of life, and invites us to find strength and comfort and direction for our lives from his light.
So it is that Christmas can bring us the gift of hope and a taste of a heavenly quality of life in the here and now. It makes clear to us God’s offer of being put right with him, with each other and with ourselves through the light and love of Jesus Christ. If we respond, our lives and that of the world can be transformed for the better.
So, we are keen to celebrate, and I invite you to join us, either here in the cathedral or online through our streamed services.
Our Festival of Lessons and Carols on 23rd and 24th are always extremely popular, telling the story of salvation in readings, carols and choral works. The celebrations of the Eucharist at 11pm on 24th (led by Bishop Anna and me) and 10.30am on Christmas morning (led by Bishop Nick) are some of the high spots of the year. A good service for families and small children is the Journey to Bethlehem on 24th at 11.30am – always great fun, with children encourage to dress as characters from the nativity.
And don’t forget that if you fancy a walk on Boxing Day, Bishp Anna and I will be leading the annual pilgrimage from the cathedral to Fountains Abbey (Eucharist at 9.30am, departing from the west front at 10.15am), culminating in a short and relaxed carol service in the Cellarium (with free entry kindly provided by the National Trust for those joining us).