As we glide, like a monoplane caught in headwinds, towards Christmas and the year end, it is always a good time to reflect and re-prioritise for the year ahead. I hope you have had a good year.

The government has stabilised itself compared to the extraordinary turbulence of 2022, and now has 12 months or so to show it can govern wisely before the British people get to choose the next government. I have learned to trust the political savvy of the electorate who always seem to do the right thing for the country at that time.

For Jan and I, the last 13 months have been eventful and often sad. We have both lost our mothers, so we are now as a couple parent-less and it does feel different. I have announced my retirement and my excellent successor has been chosen (subject to the will of the people) and that feels good. We have experienced both family illness and unaccustomed legal activity, neither of which were pleasant but thankfully now behind us. Global conflicts and uncertainty also provide a sobering backdrop.

But if you think you have had a challenging year, just imagine what it was like for one of the central characters of the nativity that we celebrate at this time of year. She was a teenage girl, looking forward to marrying her fiancé when an angel shows up and says she is going to have a baby, and he is going to be the son of God. Imagine explaining that to your parents.

As the time for delivery drew closer, Mary and Joseph then had to take a 4 day hike to Bethlehem to register in a census. They had no access to in those days, and when they arrived the town hostelries were full. So, Mary gave birth to the saviour of the world in a smelly stable. Remember, this was no soap opera or TV drama- it really happened to real people in history.

He wasn’t born in a palace, had no army, never stood for office, but Jesus turned out to be the most important man who ever lived. We will miss our late Queen’s poignant references to her faith in Him on Christmas day this year.

But let’s give Mary a thought too, as we roast our chestnuts. What a year she had. But it turned out well in the end.

Merry Christmas and a happy new year to all