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Simple acts of kindness matter, says Bishop Martin Seeley

A ‘good Christmas’ evokes yearnings for peace and goodwill, for comfort and well-being, of the world being – well, good.

So what does having a good Christmas mean to us today, in these strange times?

We have learned many things through this pandemic, and will continue to do so, about what it means to be human beings.

Bishop Martin Seeley (43425396)
Bishop Martin Seeley (43425396)

Two of those things, which I believe are at the heart of what a good Christmas is about, are first of all, that we are all in this together, and secondly, that it is the small things that matter.

The disease does not affect everyone the same. Age, health, poverty, race are all factors that mean in one sense we are not all in this together.

Some are much more vulnerable than others.

But the lives of all of us have been upended, constrained, even traumatised. No-one is untouched, although some may try to live as if they are.

We are globally all in this together. It has become part of our human condition, part of who we are right now – people of the pandemic.

And being thrown together like this, where we all know ourselves to be susceptible in some way to this illness, leads me straight to the second thing we’ve learned.

Suddenly, all those little gestures, those small acts of kindness, of reaching out to ask someone how they are, phone calls to someone living alone, food parcels for families, gestures of comfort and simple neighbourliness, all of these simple small actions have mattered, and mattered enormously.

We have seen across the world, and in every community here in Suffolk, people just caring for one another in the simplest and most ordinary, but fundamentally valuable ways.

And we have also learned that taking care of one another is about small acts of protection – masks, keeping our distance, keeping the room ventilated, washing our hands.

Small acts that make a big difference.

And how we are with one another, in the smallest of ways, makes a big difference – and as we have seen in these months, a difference for good.

So why do I think these are at the heart of Christmas?

First, because God became human – showing humanity is, if I can put it this way, compatible with the divine – every human being is blessed, everyone is precious. We are all in this together.

And God chose to do this by becoming a small and indeed very vulnerable baby, in conditions far from safe, taking a huge risk.

And that small action changed the world, making a difference forever.

So a good Christmas means being renewed in our common humanity by the God who came to share that humanity with us.

And it means small acts for peace and goodwill, perhaps a phone call to a family or friend we have lost touch with these many months, or a gift to improve the lives of people far away.

I hope you are all having the best Christmas you possibly can, and may it be a good Christmas.

-- With church services disrupted by the coronavirus outbreak, the Rt Rev Martin Seeley, Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, is contributing a weekly article for readers.

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