Welby's Christmas message of hope
The next Archbishop of Canterbury has released a Christmas message of optimism as he looks ahead to taking on the role next year.
The Rt Rev Justin Welby is to leave his position as Bishop of Durham and will become the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury in March.
The former oil executive said he had not sought the job, but that he will do his best for his country and the Church he loves.
And, despite the recession, he felt Christmas remained a time of celebration. In his Christmas message, he says: "In tough times like these, it can sometimes be difficult to focus on the positive; talk of recession, news of redundancies and reports of worldwide conflict grinds us down.
"However, Christmas is a time for celebration, it always has been. The shepherds, poor as you could be even in those days, went to celebrate what had happened in a manger, where they found God Himself.
"Christmas also brings with it the risk of so clubbing ourselves round the head with spending and parties that we forget who we are and why we live. At the heart of the greatest story ever told, the Christian story, the story that has shaped our civilisation, is the theme of self-giving and responsibility.
"There are great benefits when people take responsibility and show self-awareness. For a start, there is always a great deal of humour. Christmas has been associated with partying not only because the early Church took over the early festival of Saturnalia, or the winter solstice, which was traditionally a time for general merrymaking, but also because what is being talked about is such good news. It is good news for people in bad situations.
"I have several times this year been in Nigeria, especially up in the north, where Christians are suffering from a horrendous outbreak of persecution in a part of the world that was already pretty low on the good things of life. Yet amidst it all, I have found a capacity for joy and celebration that is deeply challenging and quite overwhelming. That sprang from the sense that good news had come into the world....
"I will leave the North East with great sadness but will take with me a deep and abiding love for the region and its people. I thank everyone for the support they have given us during a stay that has been all too brief. Have a good Christmas, and a very Happy New Year."
Bishop Welby's Christmas Day sermon, like others in the Church of England, will be tweeted as part of the Christmas Starts With Christ campaign.