The Dean's Christmas message

2014, like every year, has been a mixture of huge events on the world stage and personal incidents and experiences much closer to home.

The Dean's Christmas message

Some of the world events are tragedies of breathtaking proportions that it's hard to get your head round, like the Ebola outbreak in West Africa which continues to affect some of the poorest countries in the world. Others are stories of hope, like the courage of those 'wounded warriors' who took part in the Invictus Games.

In our personal lives and those of our friends and families there are sometimes sad moments: some of us will be spending our first Christmas since the death of a loved one who had always been there. Yet there are also times of great joy. Congratulations to all those spending their first Christmas as husband and wife, or those whose Christmas night will be wonderfully interrupted with the hungry cries of a new baby.

For Daphne and me, 2014 has been the year in which we have celebrated our ruby wedding. I think she deserves a medal for putting up with me for 40 years, and as I look at our wedding photos it doesn't seem true that those years have rolled by.

Three children and three grandchildren help to remind us that time has moved on and we have changed from being university students, through young marrieds, to young parents, to parents of teenagers, father and mother of a bride and then a groom, grandparents and proud Mum and Dad sitting in Cineworld until our younger daughter's name has come up on the casting credits of her latest film.

We started with two generations above us, parents and grandparents; now we are at the head of the family.

Our year has mixed family celebrations, a romantic getaway to Herm, with world events, most poignantly Holocaust Memorial Day, Liberation Day and the commemoration of the start of the Great War. It is a huge honour and privilege to take part, as Dean of Jersey, at those moments when our generation adds its reflections on the suffering and heroism of the past. This Island naturally reaches out to God in both thanksgiving and prayer as we remember the past and look to the future.

It's been a year to celebrate faithfulness: personally in our ruby wedding, historically as we remember those who fought for freedom or as we pray for those who serve in foreign countries to give them a future, whether that's Afghanistan in the face of terrorists or West Africa, where the deadly Ebola virus that can be seen only under a microscope is being so bravely tackled.

Closer to home we are grateful for all those who, across the 12 parishes, work so hard in the honorary service which is such a wonderful part of Jersey's heritage and way of life. There are always those ready to knock the Island, to criticise our way of life or tell us how much better it would be if we did things their way.

Let me put in a word of thanks to our politicians, to all those who serve in the States. I know them and sit with them and, across their political differences, they work with dedication and commitment to guide our community as best they can.

'This year has been, and 2015 will be, a mixture of the personal and the global'

This year, then, has been, and 2015 will be, a mixture of the personal and the global, the family and the international community, things that affect our friends and things that alter for ever the lives of some whose faces will briefly appear on news bulletins but whose names we will never know.

The first Christmas was exactly the same.

On one level it is a heart-warming story of a young mother and her husband going miles at the whim of an occupying regime to register for tax. While they were in Bethlehem, packed to capacity as it was, she gives birth to a son and lays him in a manger because there was no room anywhere else.

At another level it is the greatest event in human history as the Son of God lies in an animal's feeding trough.

It's personal for the shepherds disturbed by angelic choirs in the middle of the night: their lives were never the same again.

It's global, as wise men came from miles away to swop their astrology for faith in Christ.

Daphne and I want to wish all the readers of the JEP a fabulous Christmas and say that our experience down 40 years is that the personal and the global are always better shared with God.

Msgr France and the Rev Graeme Halls join me in wishing your God's richest blessing this Christmas and throughout 2015.

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