A welcome awaits in all churches

Half of all adults in Yorkshire say they experience feelings of loneliness according to a recent poll for the BBC.

That figure is rising year by year. One in five people say they are more lonely now than they were 10 years ago.

Loneliness is different from spending time on your own.

Loneliness is that feeling of being cut off from other people, of having no-one to spend time with.

It can affect us at any time of year but can be especially acute at Christmas.

Loneliness is bad for us in all kinds of ways.

One website estimates that loneliness has the same effect on someone’s health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. That’s serious.

The Christmas story is the story of the way God addresses human loneliness and isolation.

God does not wait for us to come to him.

God comes to us, takes flesh, is born as a child in Bethlehem.

God reaches through the walls we build around ourselves to embrace us and to call us home.

As soon as Jesus is born, people start to come together.

We all know the story.

Mary and Joseph create a new community in the stable because there was no room at the inn.

The shepherds come, sent by the angels. The wise men from the east come and kneel and bring gifts.

People come together from all kinds of backgrounds who would not normally meet.

They meet together because they come to meet Jesus.

There is just no need to be lonely this Christmas time.

Within walking distance of your home, there is a community of people ready to welcome you.

Christians are gathering at this time of year to celebrate this deep, deep truth: that God reaches out to embrace us in Jesus and call us home.

Every church will have its welcome mat out this year – ready to welcome strangers as friends not just for Christmas but for the whole year round.

It can be hard walking into church for the first time but when you take the plunge its worth it.

Often people find faith rekindled and a new family.

If you can’t fit a visit in before Christmas then plan to come next year.

A very happy and blessed Christmas to you and yours.

To watch Bishop Steven’s Christmas message go to www.sheffieldtelegraph.co.uk