From the Vicar

The last few days have been dominated by Christmas Trees! It’s the first Christmas Tree Festival the Minster has planned, and currently there are 32 trees all in place, with over half already decorated, and the others to be done before tomorrow night’s Preview Evening. All the trees have been sponsored by different organisations across the town and borough, and it’s been wonderful to have such support from all sectors towards the Minster. Tomorrow BBC Radio Leeds will broadcast their Breakfast show from the Minster and we look forward to welcoming hundreds of people over the coming Weekend celebration.

This Tree Festival comes as winter takes hold, and temperatures plummet and the days get shorter and the nights longer. As human’s we crave for the light and the warmth of the sun. Scientists recognise the importance of regular intake of Vitamin B. In recent month’s there has been a strong sense of the world living in darkness, with natural disasters, civil wars and ethnic cleansing, large scale migration from terror and oppression, and terrorist attacks across Europe and on mainland England.

It can be no surprise that the Pagans chose this time of year to have a Light Festival which other faith communities soon adopted. As Christians, the Bible uses the image of Light as a reference to the Word of God, and of the birth of Jesus as The Light of the World. At Christmas we celebrate the incarnation of God as a human being in the person of Jesus – or as he is often referred to as Emmanuel – which means God with us. In the birth of this vulnerable child, God brought about a fulfilment of the promises he had made to the ancient Prophets, and the renewal of the Covenant made between God and humanity. Society had turned away from following God, and placed their hopes in their own ability to reach their potential – sometimes they even tried at playing God themselves.

The birth of Jesus as Lord of All, provides humanity with the opportunity to choose a new way of living, and to place their trust once again, in the God who created the world and everything in it. Each Christmas we are reminded that this opportunity to come and worship the Christ child is offered freely to the world, to hear God’s Word afresh, and to respond in love of God and to the world around us.

The Minster is uniquely placed to offer this love for God and neighbour, as we provide significant hospitality to hundreds and thousands of people throughout December, who come for Carol Services and Events. Its remains a real privilege to shake the hands of these people as they leave, and to wish them a Happy Christmas and a Happy New Year. I’m thankful to everyone who shares in this calling, as December at the Minster is a team effort, with lots of people volunteering on a daily basis. Hospitality is a key plank in our Benedictine Spirituality – it’s one of our Unique Selling Points – it’s part of how we see ourselves and how we are viewed by others. The challenge for us, is to welcome visitors not just at Christmas, but all year round, and to welcome all those who are lost, confused, grieving, the lonely, the stranger, all as if we were welcoming Christ himself, into our family home.

Happy Christmas and New Year to everyone!