Venerable, Very Reverend, Reverend and dear Fathers, brothers and sisters,

Traditionally we see the birth of Christ as occurring in the very dead of winter and kindling in our imagination all that this means, particularly of the prevailing darkness. The choice of 25th December for the Feast of the Nativity, reaffirms this, at least for those of us in our part of the world actually experiencing the dead of winter and the shorter days.

The visit of the Magi sometime after the Birth of Christ, The Epiphany, which we celebrate on 6th January, has, at its heart, a journey through darkness.

We can imagine that Casper, Balthasar and Melchior, (the names tradition gives to the Three Wise Men), experienced many rigours in their undertaking. Of camels and camping; of dangers lurking, of wild beast, thieves and rogues.

The Magi were led by a bright star. So bright that it shone through the day as well as the darkness of the night. But, in their visit to Herod to ask where the new born King was to be found, we could be forgiven for thinking that there may have been moments when even the brightness of the Christmas Star, was hidden or obscured.

In a world of uncertainty we too are guided by a great light which lightens our darkness But sometimes, even those of us blessed with the greatest faith, can find that light obscured.

And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. John 1: 5

Sometimes the Light shining for us can be obscured and hidden as a result of sadness, discouragement, the tragedies of life, the pain of bereavement, the fear and loneliness of old age, the thought of our failures, the things we regret, perhaps terrible mistakes that we have made, worries about the past and worries about the future; problems that remain unresolved and perhaps can never be resolved; perhaps the bitter agony of illness and death that awaits us, or even worse, the pain and bewilderment of seeing a loved one suffer; the dread of separation; and sometimes you wonder what is the point of it all. Life is hard indeed at times. Let us also be honest, adding to the mix, the size of our Church and the stresses and strains this does bring, difficulties can be multiplied.

Nevertheless, the life which God has given us, is tempered by the individual vocation and calling He has also bestowed upon each and every one of us, as Christians, whether ordained or lay.

He asks us to live, to embark upon and continue our journey, in faith, and faith is always driven by promise and hope.

If we continue in our honesty, we can admit, that while many times glimpsing the Star we maybe lose sight of it, for a moment or perhaps longer. It may even be the case we sometimes see the brightness of the Star as not being much consolation when it appears to be distant in the heavens, and not down here with us.

But let Wisdom attend! Faith tells us that the star, our Star, is there even when obscured by clouds of care and worry, and is leading us to somewhere really so much better than we can even begin to fully comprehend. Christ himself, the Word made flesh, who makes sense of all and of everything and makes it all infinitely worth while in the end.

Our vocations, our callings, share one important dimension: we are to manifest Christ to those around us through faith: by word and deed. Living as little epiphanies – as lights shining in the darkness reflecting the One True Light of the world – regardless of the incomprehension of the world around us!

One of the functions of our Sunday worship is to give us a periodic glimpse of the Star and indeed a foretaste of where it is leading us. We should in turn, try to make our liturgy as beautiful as possible, so that all who share in it may be lifted for a moment above those experiences we all have in common with the Magi travelling through the darkness; the camel men cursing and grumbling, and the night-fires always going out on us, and the lack of shelter, and the cities dirty and the towns unfriendly.

This liturgy is given to us to keep the star shining in the midst of our pain and bewilderment. As we begin 2019, I pray that you will come very close to God once again in the liturgy, for it will sustain you and gladden you on your long journey, all the days of your life, until at last the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts at the moment of that greatest manifestation of Christ, when we enter his presence for eternity and the place where faith is no longer needed!

My blessing on you and yours and the assurance of my prayers in the coming year.

The Right Revd Damien Mead
Diocese of the United Kingdom