The Right Revd Mark Bryant, Bishop of Jarrow today (Monday 16th December) released his Christmas message to the region (Full transcript below).
In it he asks: “I wonder if 2013 will go down in history as the year that in this country we discovered Food Banks?”
He applauds peoples amazing generosity giving time and money in support of others and says: “that the great hope for the future is in this extraordinary generosity of so many people.”
The message comes at a time when the expansion of foodbanks and their use by people across the region seems have no end. Indeed Bishop Mark says in response to comments on benefit scrounger and a some who want hardening of hearts: “that many people on benefits are in work and some foodbanks report that sometimes their busiest time of the day is when people are going home from work.” His message concludes by reminding us of the Christmas story and that Jesus was born into riches but into a situation of hardship and homelessness, to show that God does not stand far away aloof from the lives of ordinary people. Bishop Mark will again be tweeting his Christmas sermons, a tradition that was started last year as part of the ‘Christmas starts with Christ’ campaign. The sermons will be tweeted from @BishopMark1 using the hashtag #CSWCDD. He encourages others to get involved and to Tweet their Christmas experiences from their parishes and communities across the North East. Full Transcript of Bishop Marks Christmas Message
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I wonder if 2013 will go down in history as the year that in this country we discovered Food Banks? Wherever I go across the region, almost every day I hear stories of people for whom life is becoming more difficult than I can even begin to imagine. I hear stories too of amazing generosity as people give time and money to support people…
It seems impossible this year to separate Christmas and Foodbanks. While very many of us will be spending more and eating more than we do at other times of the year, the media coverage and the collections outside our supermarkets will make it difficult to forget that we are a deeply divided country in which something is very deeply wrong.
If there is hope, – and I surely believe there is – for me it lies in the extraordinary generosity of so many. People I talk to who collect outside supermarkets tell me of the amazing generosity of so many. Somebody recently suggested to me that it may be the least well-off who are often the most generous. (That is true the world over as anybody who has visited parts of Africa will tell you) My sense is that in many places people are becoming strangely more – rather than less – compassionate. Time and time again people say to me “I cannot begin to imagine what it must be like not to be able to feed your children” I hear the same story from people who give a bed to a homeless teenager for the night through the wonderful Nightstop scheme. People say “I would want to think that if my lad was homeless, somebody would take him in!”. It seems that people’s hearts are becoming softer. Some of us seem to be becoming more compassionate and that gives me hope.
There have been those this year who have seemed to want us to harden our hearts with their talk of benefit scroungers – ignoring the fact that very many people on benefits are in work and some foodbanks report that sometimes their busiest time of the day is when people are going home from work. The Good News is how many people refuse to let their hearts be hardened and persist in being generous. That gives me hope.
The Christmas story of a baby being born in a manger is a story of God who refuses to be a God who ignores people and does not care. He comes to earth as a baby to show that God does not stand far away aloof from the lives of ordinary people. Often as people think of the Christmas story as a story of a homeless mother who before the baby is very old has to flee for their lives as a refugee to Egypt they start to see a God who understands much more than we imagine about what human life is really about.
The Christmas story is a story about a God who does not abandon us whatever the mess and that sense that we are not alone is a reason to have hope.
What gives people hope is knowing that they have not been abandoned and that they are not alone.
Ask yourself – Who might I give some hope to this Christmas?
A ray of hope flickers in the sky A tiny star lights up way up high All across the land, dawns a brand new morn This comes to pass when a child is born Have a good Christmas, and a very Happy New Year.
Bishop Mark Bryant.