Finding hope in adversity is one of the themes of Christmas. Jesus was born into a world full of fear. The angels came to frightened shepherds with hope in their voices: "Fear not", they urged, "we bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Saviour who is Christ the Lord."
Although we are capable of great acts of kindness, history teaches us that we sometimes need saving from ourselves - from our recklessness or our greed. God sent into the world a unique person - neither a philosopher nor a general, important though they are, but a Saviour, with the power to forgive.
Forgiveness lies at the heart of the Christian faith. It can heal broken families, it can restore friendships and it can reconcile divided communities. It is in forgiveness that we feel the power of God's love.
In the last verse of this beautiful carol, O Little Town Of Bethlehem, there's a prayer:O Holy Child of Bethlehem,It is my prayer that on this Christmas day we might all find room in our lives for the message of the angels and for the love of God through Christ our Lord.
Descend to us we pray.
Cast out our sin
And enter in.
Be born in us today.
- HM Elizabeth II, Supreme Governor of the Church of England, Christmas 2011.It's not often you hear anything of this theological depth and clarity from a head of state in a public address to an audience of millions, so I thought it would bear repeating one year later.