Archbishop of York's Christmas message to readers

York Press: Dr John Sentamu, Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu, Archbishop of York

If you’ve been reading The Press over the last 12 months, you cannot have failed to have read about Stamping Out Poverty.

There is not a single week that has passed without mentions of foodbanks, debt, poor housing, unemployment, loneliness, health worries or appeals for volunteers. These are tough times and it could get tougher.

There are many people living below the poverty line in the UK. But we have found that for the first time, there are more of those in poverty in work (6.7 million) than there are retired or without work.

The report published earlier this month by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) revealed that almost 13 million people are living in poverty in the UK. As chair of the Living Wage Commission, I am all too aware of the scale and depth of hardship across the country.

This year has brought huge challenges with it for many across the City of York. More than ever we are going to need to rely on each other’s support, love and friendship to face the difficult times ahead - both financially and emotionally. For many, the Ghost of Christmas Future is looming large and it brings with it little comfort or hope.

Yet, in this season of Advent we are encouraged to step forwards with hope as we wait for something wonderful to happen: the coming of Christ. I am reminded of the poignant message of the angels to the terrified Shepherds: “Do not be afraid”. And it is this message of stepping out in faith and hope that stays with me always. I pray that this message reaches you too.

The lighting of the fourth candle in the Advent wreath last Sunday reminds us that Christ, the light of all nations, brings hope of transformation into a world of darkness.

In the midst of our chaotic lives, be encouraged to know that nothing is beyond God’s power to make a difference, which means that there is always hope for life in the present and for the future ahead of us. And what’s better is that God never ever tires of forgiving us. It is by God’s grace that we know that there’s always room for the future to be different.

Life’s persistent and urgent question for all of us should be: “What are we doing for others so that together our future can be different? How can I be the change I want to see?” This takes courage. It takes a yearning to make a difference. And it requires real love to bring lasting transformation.

When I came to York and was inaugurated eight years ago as Archbishop in York Minster, a collection was made for a charity I hadn’t heard of before. It was Martin House Hospice. I have always liked to do what I can to support it ever since.

The Good Night’s Sleep Appeal for Martin House aims to raise £120,000 to pay for 24 hour care and support for families with children with life-limiting illnesses. Many parents staying with their children in the Hospice don’t get a full night’s sleep. These funds will pay for care at the hospice for parents and their children.

It would be a marvellous Christmas present for the children and families if the appeal target could be reached. As we shout on the terraces of Bootham Crescent, I want to encourage all of you reading this to “Come on York!” Together we can achieve so much more.

It was Christmas 1939 at the height of the blitz when King George VI addressed the nation with this poem by Minnie Louise Haskins: “And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: “Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”

And he replied: “Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”

May the light of Christ lead us this Christmas and on into 2014.

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