Give the gift of kindness this Christmas

The Right Revered Dr Martin Warner MAPhD, Bishop of Chichester

Thursday, 23rd December 2021, 8:25 am

It’s now just over a year since I last came off my bike on a badly lit corner near the City walls. Nothing much was damaged, except my pride, as I found myself sprawled rather uncomfortably on the ground. But what I remember most is the kindness of strangers. Someone picked up my bike, someone else picked up the shopping and asked if I was okay. How kind!

Christmas is the season for the kindness of strangers. The story of no room at the inn points us to the kindness of whoever found safe space for a woman about to give birth, and then did the equivalent of putting the kettle on for a cup of tea.

This Christmas I feel a certain pride in the people of Sussex who are like that – who show kindness to the stranger in so many different ways. But perhaps the people I want to salute most this Christmas are the women of Hastings who have shown kindness to asylum-seeking strangers who were washed up on the shore of their town, after paying extortionate sums of money to cross the English Channel in shockingly dangerous conditions and, ultimately, some paid with their lives.

Kindness is God’s mark of family likeness in us. The headlines in the story of Jesus Christ will be about kindness done to strangers, whoever they are – some will be wealthy and sophisticated, some will be criminal. As the Son of God, Jesus shows us that the kindness of God has an empowering quality. It restores dignity to those who never expected to be welcome, and it can make them a blessing to others.

Last year, on Christmas Day, one of our clergy organised a Christmas Day lunch with people in the parish, to which they invited a Syrian refugee family: mum, dad and two daughters. The Syrians were overwhelmed. This was the first time they’d been invited into someone’s home to share a meal. It was a Christmas that people from that congregation will not forget. They’d been able to make room at the inn for strangers who were a holy family.

So may God bless you with the gift of his kindness, making this a very, very happy Christmas.

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Chichester Cathedral

Dates for your Diary

• Churches across the country will be gathering onsite and online this Advent and Christmas and you’re invited to a service or event. A Church Near You is the website where you’ll find your local worshipping community and discover what’s at the heart of Christmas. Just type in your location, and select the correct option from the drop-down list: www.achurchnearyou.com

• ‘At the heart of Christmas’ is the Church of England’s theme for Advent and Christmas 2021. You can sign up to receive Christmas Reflections by email from December 24 to January 6. There is also an app, available to download for free on Apple and Android devices: www.churchofengland.org/our-faith/what-we-believe/advent-and-christmas/heart-christmas-our-2021-advent-and-christmas

• DailyHope is a free national telephone line, offering music, prayers and reflections as well as full worship services from the Church of England at the end of the phone. The line – which is available 24 hours a day on 0800 804 8044 – has been set up particularly with those unable to join online church services in mind; to provide comfort and spiritual nourishment to the most isolated in our society.