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Bishop Brian McGee, Bishop of Argyll and the Isles and Episcopal Secretary of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland:
‘One statement which I don’t like is ‘Christmas is all about the kids’. It’s something that I often hear at this time of year.
Now don’t get me wrong – I absolutely loved Christmas as a child and each year I find myself reliving many cherished memories. Now as an adult, I love seeing the excitement and joy of today’s children. So what’s my issue?
My problem is that by equating Christmas only for children we have reduced Christmas to presents, parties, lights and food.
Now again, I love the Christmas atmosphere of people coming together and having fun. But wonderful as partying is, is this all that there is to Christmas? So what are we celebrating? It is good that family and friends gather together for fun but is there nothing more to Christmas?
Without a doubt, Christmas is a most wonderful time of the year. Christmas reveals that we are precious.
At the first Christmas God took on human flesh to make us like God. Jesus loved us so much he was born in the stable to redeem us. From that moment, God would be with us in a new way. We would never be alone.
Christmas is a special time for everyone. I hope that we all can enjoy its social moments but even more the beauty of encountering the love of Jesus in our hearts.
Jesus was born for us all and so I wish each one of you, young and old, a happy and holy Christmas!
Rt Rev Colin Sinclair, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland:
‘I think I’ll give Christmas a miss this year.’
How often have you heard people say that? When pressed you discover, usually, that there is a formula for a successful Christmas, and if you don’t have all the ingredients, then you don’t qualify.
So what do you need? Well, ‘Christmas is family time’, but if you are on your own, if you have been bereaved, if your family are not speaking to one another, then it makes sense to give Christmas a miss. Does it?
‘Christmas is for the children’ but we never were able to have children, ours have grown up and scattered, we will leave it to others to enjoy. Should you?
‘Christmas is expensive’ and we don’t have money to spend, my job is not secure, I daren’t risk adding to my debt, not for us this year. Really!
If Christmas is good news only for those who have family, only those with money for food and gifts, then it is a very selective experience and leaves far too many out in the cold.
The problem is that our images of Christmas are too often built round Victorian images of rooms festooned with decorations or family gathered round an impressive tree with presents underneath.
Attractive though that is, the danger is we miss the point altogether. To a group of socially despised shepherds, doing a night shift with their sheep, living under an extortionate and humiliating occupation, a group of angels lit up the night sky.
They confronted the startled shepherds with news that something had happened that would change their lives and everyone else’s also.
The message of the angels was that this was good news for all the people, the broken-hearted as well as the blessed, the lonely as well as the loved, the poor as much as the prosperous.
For Christmas helps us recalibrate our view of God. He is not distant from us, nor demanding of us. Rather he is ‘God with us’ alongside us, sharing our joys and our sorrows.
Even if we do not have the means to have a traditional Christmas we can have a Christ-centred Christmas and that can mean so much more.
If you are able why not visit a local Church and perhaps the traditional carols will burrow their way into your heart and get you singing for joy.
Kate Forbes, MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch:
I am writing this as the snow falls outside and Peat and Diesel sing Fairytale of Stornoway.
With references to Donnie Dotaman, inspired lyrics about tending sheep and choice Gaelic insults, the song certainly gets you in the mood for a west coast Christmas.
Peat and Diesel have so far overtaken Taylor Swift in the music charts but still trail Stormzy and Mariah Carey as the race for Christmas number one heats up.
I love seeing this self-confident, reinvented and relevant west coast culture taking us into 2020.
It is not just about one song, or one band, or one impressive feat. I think it is symptomatic of growing self-confidence, particularly among young people from the West Highlands, who have grown up here and are sharing their creativity – through music, business and the media.
My objective in 2020, as your MSP, is simply to help create the environment in which west coast creativity, entrepreneurialism and hard work can prosper and thrive.
As we look back on the many successes of last year, as individuals, families and communities, there is much cause for celebration.
I can think of visits to the Highland Soap Company, or to Strontian Primary School, or to the Isle of Canna – all of those highlights the great potential in our area.
So, as 2019 comes to a close and 2020 looms with all of its uncertainties and opportunities, I would like to wish you all the best. My anchor in choppy waters is my faith, and Christmas reminds us of the birth of Jesus, who came to give peace – peace with God, peace with each other and peace with ourselves.
Our world certainly needs more of that. I hope you know peace, contentment and purpose this festive period and throughout 2020.’