2007 has been a fraught year for many. Here in central Berkshire we have faced floods and cattle disease. Some residents are still tackling the water damage to their properties. We have mourned the loss of members of our armed forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. We have worried over hospital infections and the credit crunch. Many of you have described to me the struggles you have faced.
Christmas comes as a welcome holiday after a cold wet summer and a windswept early winter. It is an opportunity for families to come together, for mothers and fathers to take a few days off from the paid job. Some dreams come true as presents are opened and eyes sparkle with delight. Children perform in plays and carol concerts, choristers voices soar and more of us get to the theatre to see a panto or a favourite play. Many of us take a childlike pleasure in the lights, the sights and the sounds of the season. We can enjoy the happiness of others and forget the day to day responsibilities for a while.
Christians will fill the Churches to celebrate the birth of Christ. Most will get to the shops to lay in the turkey and the puddings, the sauces and the wine for a vintage celebration. Fires will be lit, trees decorated, Santa costumes dusted down and cakes iced. It’s a busy time, a time for love and friendship. It’s a chance to remember that many of the things that bring joy do not need money to buy them. The handmade card, the traditional games, the Boxing Day walk, taking more time and trouble for others can all make Christmas special.
Christmas is a steaming bowl of mulled traditions: the angels and the Magi, Father Christmas and his reindeer, the mid-winter feast with a plumb pudding and the coming of commercial Christmas with the Victorian trees and cards.
I would like to say a big Thank you on behalf of all of us to those who will keep our important services operating over the Christmas season, and for all the efforts they put in all year round. I hope we will extend the hand of friendship to neighbours and to the lonely over the Christmas period. For the few who are on their own on December 25th the feeling of loneliness must be that much greater, and an invitation that much more welcome.
I wish you and yours a very happy Christmas. Forget the mortgage and the bills, the nightmare journey to work and the forms that still have not been filled in. You too deserve a break.