Recently, at the Joint Emergency Services Carol Service in St Columb’s Cathedral, we gave thanks for the paramedics, firefighters, police officers and Foyle Search and Rescue volunteers who work so hard to keep us safe. The omicron variant was already loose in the community, and some felt deflated or worried, even frightened.

Suddenly, though, as the choir sang, a solitary young voice soared high into the vault. It belonged to a beautiful little girl, who simply stole the show. ‘Away in a manger’ can rarely have been sung with such gusto. For a few precious moments, the adults around her were uplifted by her unbridled joy at the wonder of Christmas.

Seven hundred years before Jesus was born, Isaiah prophesied the Saviour’s coming. The wolf would live with the lamb, he said; the leopard would lie down with the goat; the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child would lead them.

This Christmas, many of our neighbours need to be uplifted, as they worry about Covid; wrestle with the soaring cost of living, mica or struggling businesses; or because they’re grieving.

At the carol service, that little girl blessed us as we celebrated the nativity. This Christmas – amid the uncertainty and fear – let us give thanks for those who care for us and welcome Jesus into our hearts, with his gifts of faith and hope and love. Let us trust the Christ child to lead us into a brighter future.