As we approach Christmas this year, the image which seems to be uppermost in my mind is not a baby in a manger, but the terrible destruction of the cities of Aleppo and parts of the country of Yemen.
The piles of rubble, the devastation of civilisations, the displacement of families from their homes and from one another and the suffering of the injured and the bereaved conjure up a picture in our minds that it is hard to ignore.
The anger and the fear in the faces of those fleeing their homes and of those deprived of the basic necessities of life, food, medical care and education leave an indelible impression.
So it is hard to say that civilisation is improving as the years go by. There is something in human nature that has the potential to do terrible things and inflict untold evil, and which resurfaces again and again.
It is also hard to say that the world doesn’t need saving and rescuing. The recent scandals of sexual abuse in the sporting world are just another example of how much damage is done when we think we can make up the rules as we go along and there is no-one to whom we are accountable; no-one who has given us instruction and direction about how we are to live our lives.
Therefore, the image of the child in a manger, the arrival of the Word made flesh, God on earth in human form, is one that this Christmas season we must allow to be uppermost and capture our attention.
Not that we ignore the realities of life, but the celebration of what God has done in sending His Son is the answer to the world’s problems. For Jesus came to save people from their sins, from themselves, from thinking they are the ones to decide what is right and what is wrong without reference to God’s revelation of Himself.
So as He has come to us, we are invited to come to Him and find Him to be the Way, the Truth and the Life.
May there be many this Christmas who invite Him to be their Saviour.
And may all who read this have a joy-filled Christmas and be encouraged to live in 2017 according to God’s ways.
Bishop Julian Henderson
Bishop of Blackburn