Annual Christmas message by the Dean of Southwark
Eighty years ago we were at war. On 3 September the United Kingdom entered the conflict to defend the freedom of Europe and ultimately that of the world. By Christmas, children were being evacuated from communities in London, shortages were beginning to develop in our shops and it looked like the war might take longer to win than was first imagined. Since 1932, the monarch had broadcast to the nation and the Empire on Christmas Day. This year it was King George VI who addressed his people.
That speech was perhaps one of the most important delivered by a monarch in modern times. The King quoted from a poem given to him by the young Princess Elizabeth, as he concluded his speech:
“A new year is at hand. We cannot tell which it will bring. If it brings peace how thankful we shall all be. If it brings continued struggle, we shall remain un-daunted. In the meantime, I feel that we may all find a message of encouragement in the lines which, in my closing words, I would like to say to you.
‘I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year. “Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown,” And he replied. “Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”
May that Almighty hand guide and uphold us all.’
2019 has not been an easy year. Our politics has been divisive, our relationship with Europe, for whose freedom we gave ourselves all those years ago, has suffered. Now, however, we find ourselves pre-paring for Christmas and the beginning of a new decade.
The poem, written by Minnie Louise Haskins, from which the King quoted, remains as hopeful and powerful as it did all those years ago. We put our hand into the hand of God. At Christmas however, we hold the hand of the child, for God enters into our world in total vulnerability. The child in the manger is our light in the darkness, the hand, yet to be wounded by our nails, will be our guide. Christmas has to be our forever encouragement; it was then, it is now.
May God bless you this Christmas and always and as the King said so long ago, may that Almighty hand guide and uphold us all.
The Very Reverend Andrew Nunn
Dean of Southwark