As I am writing this wee message, the weather outside is grey and wet! The lovely weather we had over the past two months seems to have gone and things are back to normal for the time of year. But we do have Christmas to look forward to!

For many, this time of year is not a favourite. The weather gets worse, the nights are long and all the fuss and bother of the Christmas season stretches from now until the new year. BUT — Christmas can be a time of wonderful blessings. A time when we get to meet up with friends and family and a time when the focus should be on a baby born in Bethlehem.

For our diocese, 2016 marks the beginning of a year of Opportunity, when we will focus on Mission, children and generosity. This can mean different things to each of us, and for me it is a chance to step back and consider how I can best communicate the good news of a baby boy born in Bethlehem who died on a cross outside Jerusalem and who was raised from death and gives us new life.

It is the best news any of us can ever hear, but how many of us really take it on board. Because if we truly believe the claims of Jesus Christ and accept him as our Lord and Saviour, then surely we will want others to hear the good news as well. So over the next year we will be looking as a Parish at how best to encourage everyone to embrace the message of the gospel, to encourage our children and to be generous in giving of ourselves and some of our possessions as a response to the love of our God for you and for me. I am looking forward to what we decide to do!

I am also looking forward to becoming a granddad and retiring from my job in County Hall. A year of change, and new
opportunities ahead. But for now, may you be blessed this Christmas season and remember that even when the clouds are low and the rain is beating on the windows, the sun is still shining brightly when we get above the clouds. And when the clouds of life threaten to overwhelm us, God’s Spirit and the help of Christian friends can lift us above the cloud into the light. God bless,