Right Reverend David Arnott,
Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland
I REMEMBER the first time it dawned on me that the world Jesus was born into was in so many ways exactly the same as the world we live in today. I felt quite deflated, if not defeated. Did the fact that armies still occupy foreign countries; that dictators wreak havoc with their cruelty upon nations; that poverty still is prevalent; that people still flee their homeland to save their lives, mean that nothing had changed since Jesus was born?
The gospel writers use their words wisely. Matthew tells us the story of the birth of Jesus with the image of a bright star against a dark night sky; Magi set against Herod; a baby against an army. That darkness is still here as our newspapers tell us regularly – but so is the bright star. The world has changed. Life has changed. Now we have a hope, for at Christmas time we remember how light shines in the darkness and by its very shining defeats it. In a glorious mixture of pagan and Christian symbolism we light up our trees at this time of year. However else you wish to understand it, it is a defiant gesture that when darkness is at its most profound we light up our world to chase the darkness away. We do it because of the light which God sent at Christmas.
Christmas for me is such a season of hope. In the midst of economic news that is hardly encouraging; in the midst of a continuing battle in far-off Afghanistan that is still taking its toll; in the midst of political turmoil in much of the Arab world a star shines in the darkness. It shone then and it continues to shine today. And this year we will celebrate Christmas as boldly and as confidently as ever, assured that this festival is good not just for us but for our country too. If we can’t celebrate Christmas in the darkness we can’t celebrate it at all.
Cardinal Keith O’Brien
Leader of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland
IT IS indeed a privilege being asked to deliver a Christmas message at this time – and, for me, a joy to be able to use the themes suggested by this year’s Christmas stamps.
This year, in accordance with a recent convention of alternating secular and religious themes, religion and the Gospel story of the Nativity is very much to the fore, in fact the 2011 Christmas stamps are exceptional, not simply in concept – they adopt the Nativity narratives of Matthew and Luke’s Gospels – but in design, they are beautifully engaging and colourful renditions of that incredible, wonderful story of the birth of Jesus Christ, God made man.
This series of stamps tell that story and I believe it is one which our society needs to hear today more than ever before. That Nativity narrative is contained in the two quotations from St Matthew’s Gospel, which remind us that Mary will give birth to a son who must be named Jesus; and that this miraculous birth fulfils the prophesy in the Old Testament that a son will be born called Immanuel, a name which means ‘God is with us’. As we think of these words, we realise something of the love of God for his people in giving them his son – and we realise the wonder of that message that son is God who is still with us.
Recent reports suggest that the cost of a child is now over £100,000 in its early years, in the midst of our plenty we may lavish many gifts on our newborn. Yet think of the lack of any expensive trappings in that birth in a stable, but realise that that child was surrounded by what is most important in the life of any person, namely basic love. We heard recently, that the population of our world has reached seven billion. I wonder if each and every life is valued as it should be as our Saviour was.
As at the first Christmas, shepherds and kings, the poor and the rich, the deprived and the mighty – altogether must realise this Christmas message of the love of God for mankind and of the response that should be given by each and every individual person in their own lives to that call of love from God.
Yes at this Christmas time, these words should give us encouragement to carry that message of love from the Nativity scene into our communities, our churches and our homes. God has indeed shown his love for us and given his Son, Jesus, as God-with-us. Our response must surely be one of love, especially at this time – love of God, love of our neighbour, love of those who are in most need at home and throughout our world.
Mike Weir, Angus South MP
AS 2011 comes to an end it is sometimes difficult to be cheery and hopeful. Yet again it has been a difficult year with the economic situation continuing to impact on businesses and families both locally and nationally.
As in previous years I have tackled many issues for local businesses, sometimes successfully and, regrettably, sometimes not. Unfortunately as we reach the end of the year the situation remains difficult and many of these issues will continue to dominate in the months ahead.
I and my staff have taken up individual issues throughout Angus and it never ceases to amaze me the very wide variety of issues that interest constituents from the local to the very international. Ministers have become very used to getting approaches from me on behalf of constituents over the huge number of issues that face the world.
I and the whole community was clearly delighted that 45 Commando returned safely from their deployment in Afghanistan without suffering any fatalities.
We will undoubtedly face other difficulties in the coming year but I would wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a happy, prosperous and, above all, peaceful New Year.
Stewart Hosie, Dundee East MP
APART from the astonishing election victory of the SNP in May, good news during 2011 included the announcement of investment to secure the long-term future of Michelin in Dundee, the announcement of the winning design of the new V&A Dundee building and the funding to allow it to go ahead on schedule.
Crime in Scotland reached a 35-year low and educational statistics continue to improve.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all my constituents.
Graeme Dey, Angus South MSP
THE FESTIVE season affords us an opportunity both to reflect on the year now drawing to a close and look forward to what 2012 might have to offer.
From a personal point of view, 2011 has brought considerable change to my life thanks to being handed the great privilege of representing Angus South in the Scottish Parliament.
I consider it a genuine honour to be the MSP for this area and whilst the role is demanding it is also extremely enjoyable.
For me, there’s no more important aspect to this job that assisting people who turn to you for help.
That’s why since being elected in May I have held regular monthly surgeries in Carnoustie and Monifieth and more frequently of course at my constituency office in Arbroath while also establishing a rota which takes in Inverkeilor, Letham, Wellbank and Murroes.
Most folk, thankfully, will have little cause to require the assistance of their MSP but when they have I believe easy – preferably face-to-face - access is important.
That’s why I’ll be looking to expand that rota when the lighter nights return and opportunity permits.
As you know these are challenging times.
Thanks to the recession, households the length and breadth of Scotland have been feeling the pinch.
That’s why the Scottish Government continues to do its best – within the constraints of devolution – to ease the financial pressure by maintaining the council tax freeze, abolishing prescription charges and maintaining concessionary bus travel.
With £1.3 billion having been cut from the Scottish budget by Westminster savings have had to be made, difficult decisions taken.
But the SNP government remains committed to doing the best it can for Scotland and I am committed to standing up for Angus South and advancing its interests.
Finally I want to take this opportunity to wish all of my constituents a merry Christmas and a prosperous 2012.
Shona Robison, Dundee City East MSP
2011 certainly was a tough year with huge budget cuts from the UK Coalition Government which we are having to deal with.
The momentous result of the Scottish election in May is leading to a rise in confidence in Scotland that we can start to make our country better, create jobs - particularly in the renewable energy sector and emerge from the recession. 2011 is also the year in which it became a certainty that a Referendum on Scotland’s future would be held within the next three years.
Merry Christmas and a happy New Year to all my constituents.
Provost Ruth Leslie Melville MBE OStJ
CHRISTMAS is a wonderful and hectic time of year.
For many of us it gives us a chance to spend valuable time with family and friends, however many are unable to be with their loved ones.
Our thanks go to the hundreds of people in our communities who will be working over the holidays in our hospitals and care homes. The emergency services too will be on duty, ensuring we are safe and cared for over the festive season.
Particular thoughts and prayers are with the men and women of our armed services who are separated from their families at this time. We must also remember those who choose to give their time to others, volunteering not only at Christmas but throughout the year.
This will be my last Christmas message as Provost as I have decided to retire at the May election. I wish everyone health and happiness in the years to come. We have a great deal of which to be proud in the county. During my term of office it has been a pleasure and a privilege to work with the people, the companies, the voluntary sector and the communities who through their endeavours make Angus a wonderful place. God bless you all at Christmas time and I wish you a peaceful New Year.