Sheffield’s bishops celebrate true meaning of festivities

“Sometimes our lives feel fragmented at Christmas. When things are going well, it’s a lovely time of year. There is joy and friendship, good food, bright lights - but Christmas has another side,” writes the Bishop of Sheffield, Steven Croft, in his festive message to Telegraph readers.

“We can feel overstretched and extended, rushed and overworked. Bad news or grief can overwhelm us. The result is a kind of inner fragmentation. On the outside we may be smiling. On the inside it’s a different story.

“Every year I try and write some verses for a Christmas card. I send more than 600 across South Yorkshire and beyond.

“The picture this year is a beautiful photograph of Laughton Parish Church, near Rotherham on a winter morning.

“It was taken by Tim Leach and featured in the Diocesan photographic competition we held for our centenary celebrations.

“The verses are taken from two Psalms and one of the songs in Luke’s gospel. I’ve tried to capture something of the longing in the human heart for peace, for forgiveness, for wholeness and for joy.

“The gift of Christ at Christmas brings all of these things. That’s why we celebrate.

“The verses are a prayer written for the early mornings when you are facing a busy day. They are about light coming to the darkness.

“They are a hymn to help you reach out to God in those moments when life feels fragmented and broken, when you need to be held in the love of God.

“A very happy Christmas to you and to your family.”

Meanwhile Ralph Heskett, bishop of the Catholic Hallam diocese, writes in his message: “As you prepare to gather with family and friends this Christmas, another year is rapidly drawing to a close.

“For some it will have been a difficult year for a variety of reasons – an illness, loss of a job, a family bereavement.

“For others, it will have been a year to count your blessings.

“The message of the first Christmas is that there has been no experience of which God has not been part.

“In your moments of loss and sadness – God was there.

“In your moments of joy and laughter – God was there.

“Our celebration of the Christmas story is a reminder to us God’s promise to do the same next year!

“I take this opportunity to wish you and those close to you a peaceful and joy-filled Christmas and a New Year rich in blessings.”