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Introduction from Bishop John

I'd like to wish you all a happy Christmas, different and difficult though it may be this year.

If you have a crib at home this Christmas, or even just a picture on a Christmas card of Mary and Joseph, the baby in the Manger. There may be shepherds around, or the ox and the ass, but the important thing is that there's silence. No-one is saying anything, they're just rejoicing in the birth of Jesus. There's no need for words. It's just a simple prayer being there.

I wonder what your Christmas is like this year. It's probably quite different to the one you would normally have planned.  You may be with some of your family, or may have decided that this year you simply can't be together. But we are together. We are together in hope.

I wonder what Mary must have been thinking as she gazed on that child. The angel Gabriel had made great promise to her that this was all part of God's plan, but she must have been a little bit confused, pondering all of these things in her heart.

What is God's plan, allowing me to be here 70 miles from home, giving birth to this baby - God's son - here in a stable. He's got some plan, but I'm not quite sure what it is. You and I have got to live with that sense of hope, that in all the brokenness and the sadness of our world, particularly in this last year of the pandemic. Let's see how our priorities may change, how our faith may be strengthened as we look again at how we can be Ambassadors for Jesus, how we may be Missionary Disciples and proclaim the love of God in our actions of everyday.

I hope that this Christmas, even though it is different and for some rather disappointing, that it can still be an important moment of prayer and a reminder to us all that Jesus is here among us, and that he'll guide us.

God bless you, as we celebrate Christmas together, and may the Lord stay with us always on our journey.

God is With Us: Christmas at Home Resources

Following the document 'Preparing the Way: Advent at Home', the Department for Formation have produced a document for the Christmas Season called 'God is with Us: Christmas at Home'. We hope this will support you in your prayer life this Christmas. This is our main Advent resource and encompasses many of the resources you will see below.

Due to the current capacity restrictions in our churches, please check with your local parish about their arrangements for Christmas Masses. Some parishes may have a booking system so book early to avoid disappointment. Bishop John has reminded us that we can attend any Mass to celebrate Christmas during the Christmas Octave (25th December 2020 – 1 st January 2021). The obligation to attend Mass is still lifted so, if you prefer you, can join in with Mass via livestream, again please contact your local parish for Mass times and how to watch the stream. The Christmas services from the Cathedral can be followed here

Access God is With Us: Christmas at Home here

Christmas Prayer

O God, who gladden us year by year

as we wait in hope for our redemption,

grant that, just as we joyfully welcome

your Only Begotten Son as our Redeemer,

we may also merit to face him confidently

when he comes again as our Judge.

Amen

View more printable Christmas Prayers here

The Season of Christmas; the Octave

Christmas is not just one day; it is a whole season from 25th December (Nativity of the Lord – 10th January (The Baptism of the Lord) or for some until 2nd Feb (The Presentation of the Lord). The liturgical colour of the Christmas Season is white or gold Here is some information on important celebrations during this time.

Friday 25th December 2020 – Christmas Day (Solemnity)

Next to the yearly celebrations of the paschal mystery, the Church considers nothing more important than the memorial of Christ's birth and early manifestations. This is the purpose of the season of Christmas.

Saturday 26th December 2020 – St Stephen, the first Martyr (Feast)

Stephen is the first martyr. He was one of the deacons appointed by the Apostles to organize the distribution of food to the poor. He performed many miracles and confounded the Jews in disputation. They fabricated false charges against him. At his trial he preached the risen Christ to them, so they stoned him to death. He prayed for his persecutors as he was dying. One of them, Saul of Tarsus, who was looking after the cloaks of the stone-throwers, was later converted and became the great missionary St Paul.

Sunday 27th December 2021 – The Feast of the Holy Family

The gospel on the Sunday within the octave of Christmas, feast of the Holy Family, is about Jesus' childhood and the other readings are about the virtues of family life.

Monday 28th December 2021 – The Holy Innocents, Martyrs (Feast)

The Holy Innocents are the children who were slaughtered at the orders of King Herod, in the hope that by killing every boy born in Bethlehem at the same time as Jesus, he would succeed in killing the new-born King of the Jews.

Friday 1st January 2021 – Mary, Mother of God

On the octave of Christmas, solemnity of the Mary, Mother of God, the readings are about the Virgin Mother of God and the giving of the holy Name of Jesus.

Sunday 3rd January 2021 – 2nd Sunday of Christmas

On the second Sunday after Christmas, the readings are about the mystery of the Incarnation.

Wednesday 6th January 2021 – The Epiphany of the Lord

On the Epiphany, the Old Testament reading and the gospel continue the Roman tradition; the text for the reading from the apostolic letters is about the calling of all peoples to salvation. On this feast we celebrate the visit of the three magi who come to pay honour to the new-born king. They represent the whole world coming to adore Jesus.

Sunday 10th January 2021 – The Baptism of the Lord

On this day we celebrate the Baptism of Jesus in the river Jordan. Today we celebrate the fullest revelation that Christ is the Messiah and the Son of God - that moment when the voice of the Father from the cloud says of Jesus, "This is my Son, the Beloved."

Tuesday 2nd February 2021 – The Presentation of the Lord

On this day, Mary and Joseph present the Baby Jesus in the temple in Jerusalem and we hear the prophecies of Simeon of Jesus. Candles may be blessed on this day to represent Jesus the Light of the World.

Midnight Mass, BBC One

The traditional Christmas Eve celebration of Midnight Mass comes live from the Roman Catholic Cathedral of St Peter and St Paul, Clifton, Bristol. The Bishop of Clifton, the Rt Revd Declan Lang, will preside and the Mass will be introduced by Canon Bosco MacDonald, Cathedral Dean, who will also preach.

Choir members, socially distanced to protect against Coronavirus, will sing well-loved carols including O Come All Ye Faithful, Silent Night and Hark! the Herald Angels Sing.

The Mass setting is Missa Universalis, composed by the cathedral’s director of music, Richard Jeffrey-Gray and the organist is Stephen Bryant.

For Families

 Taken from The Church Year for Children (Pia Biehl)

In many European Countries, Christians of all denominations follow the annual tradition of ‘chalking the door’. Your local parish may provide blessed chalk the weekend before the epiphany. You may wish to write the following by your front door, this is a great witness to all who will see it:

• The first two and last two digits represents the new year: 2021.
• The letter C, M and B stand for the Latin phase: Christus Mansionem Benedicat, which means: MAY CHRIST BLESS THIS HOUSE.
• It also helps you remember the names of the three Wise Men: Caspar (also known as Gaspar or Jaspar), Melchior and Balthasar.

Chalking the door of your house is a sign of hospitality and of welcoming God into your home and is a great way to start the New Year! The family could say together this prayer:

Let us pray: Bless, O Lord God almighty, this home, that in it there may be health, purity, the strength of victory, humility, goodness and mercy, the fulfilment of your law, the thanksgiving to God the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. And may this blessing remain upon this home and upon all who live here. Through Christ our Lord. Amen

Bishop John will be live from Cornerstone Day Centre with Eamonn O'Neal on Christmas Day, between 10am - 12pm on BBC Radio Manchester

Helping Others

Caritas Christmas Appeal:
Campaigning for those without a permanent ‘forever’ home.

The impact of COVID-19 has made 2020 a year like no other. A perfect storm of a global health pandemic and the start of a UK recession biting means raising funds to help tackle homelessness and help people in poverty is going to be harder than ever before. So, as Caritas approaches its Advent and Christmas fundraising appeal for this year, they have a simple message: in a world where you can be anything, #BeKind

Please donate to Caritas this Christmas to help make a real difference to people’s lives. Because when there’s no room at the inn for people today, Caritas has a range of support to help get people  back into a home, back on their feet and feeling hope for their future.

For more information and to donate please visit https://www.caritassalford.org.uk/service-view/adventappeal-2020/

Our website will be continually updated over the coming weeks and months
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