Published on 21 December 2023
Rebecca Leighton, Lay Catholic Chaplain for the University of Sunderland, here delivers an uplifting Christmas and New Year message for all staff and students, regardless of religion or beliefs.
As we come together in the spirit of Christmas, we are reminded that this is a season of hope and goodwill.
It is a time to reflect on the year gone by and, more importantly, look forward to the possibilities and opportunities of the year ahead.
As we celebrate this time of year, we may be experiencing a tapestry of emotions. There may be some of us not yet feeling the joy of this season. We may be far from home, away from our loved ones and feeling the cold of the North East weather.
For some of us, it may be the first Christmas without a loved one and we are wondering how this year is going to be the same without them being there, a part of the celebration. Some of us may have health concerns, either for ourselves or someone close to us.
Despite our differences, our difficulties and our pain, we gather together as a university community, united as one.
We remind ourselves this of the extraordinary significance behind this time of year—a moment that transcends time and space, marking the birth of Jesus Christ, the embodiment of divine love and grace.
Regardless of our different beliefs and diverse paths have led us here, we share a common bond of humanity. Christmas, in its essence, is a celebration of this shared humanity. It is a reminder that, in the midst of darkness and uncertainty, there is always a beacon of hope, a flicker of light.
The story of Christmas is a story of hope. It is the story of a humble birth in a stable, of a child who came into the world not with grandeur, but in simplicity and peace. This story teaches us that hope is not found in power or wealth, but in love, kindness, and compassion.
Regardless of how we identify, the message of Christmas is universal. It calls us to love one another, to extend our hands in kindness, to lift up those who have fallen, and to bring light into the darkest corners of our world.
These are challenging times, filled with uncertainty and strife. Recent outbreaks of war across particular parts of our world bring worry and concern.
It may be difficult to be joyful when we turn our TVs to see endless amounts of pain and hurt. Yet, it is precisely in these times that the message of Christmas becomes even more essential. Hope is not a naive optimism that ignores the realities of our world. Rather, it is a deep-seated belief in the human capacity for goodness and change.
This Christmas, let us remember that each one of us is an integral part of the University of Sunderland community and that each of us can be a bearer of hope. Every act of kindness, every word of encouragement, and every gesture of love, no matter how small, can make a difference.
May this season of hope inspire us to be the best versions of ourselves, to reach out to those in need, and to work together for a world filled with peace, justice, and love.
Wishing all students, staff, their families a Christmas filled with hope, courage, and the warmth of shared moments. May the coming year bring healing, joy, and the promise of better tomorrows.
Merry Christmas and happy New Year.