In her Christmas Message, the Bishop of Llandaff, June Osborne pays tribute to the Emergency Services of South Wales.
One of the most memorable Carol Services I’ve been to this year was that for the Emergency Services of South Wales. In the beauty and majesty of Llandaff Cathedral there gathered together representatives from the Fire and Rescue Service, the Welsh Ambulance Services, and the Gwent and South Wales Police Forces. Amidst the candlelight there were lots of uniforms which we all recognise. They reassure us when a calamity happens, or we need immediate help.
All of us are asked to live our daily lives with moral courage but there’s an admirable kind of bravery in doing a job which, day after day, takes you into situations of danger and distress. Most of us would like to avoid things dangerous and distressing and so it was good to have a chance to thank those who, on behalf of our communities, bear the impact of both.
Yet apart from the enjoyment of singing carols in a packed Cathedral what makes Christmas the right time for such an event? As we were invited to listen once again to the Christmas story, and travelled in our imagination to Bethlehem, it felt entirely appropriate that police, paramedics and firefighters should be hearing together the Christian tale of light resisting the forces of darkness, of eternal hope and the triumph of goodness.
We began at that service with the familiar phrase, that the ‘people who walked in darkness have seen a great light’. We then heard vivid descriptions of a threatening world. An ordinary couple displaced from their home by an enforced registration. A mother-to-be in the early stages of labour arriving in a city where she knew no-one. Shepherds needing to sleep in the fields in case predators or thieves steal their sheep. Wise Men naively enraging the tyrant Herod, who reacts by slaughtering infant children. And then the parents of the Christ Child must flee to a foreign land as if asylum seekers. There’s an abundance of threats surrounding that first Christmas, any one of which would make us very afraid.
We end a year in which there’s been a palpable sense of threat for just about everyone. Anxiety is a daily challenge for family and friends of all ages.
It’s good to be reminded that into that Christmas scene come angels with a repeated message – ‘Do not be afraid’ – and an extraordinary promise that the light of Jesus Christ will always be stronger than the darkness which threatens us.
If you think of your own experience of the emergency services, you’ll probably have a recollection of how the kindness of a paramedic or compassionate action of a police officer transformed an awful moment into something a little less frightening. In our darkness, perhaps an accident or tragedy, they were able to light a candle which helped us to cope. And so, may we do the same for others. May we light a candle of kindness or offer a compassionate action and so make our world just a little less frightening for someone this coming year.
Picture of Bishop June © Huw Ryden