Talking about death can be 'life-giving', says bishop

Bishop Rachel Treweek in a socially distanced visit to a Gloucester local at Christmas

People shouldn't be afraid to talk about death, even over Christmas, the Bishop of Gloucester has said.

Writing in The Times on Christmas Day, Bishop Rachel Treweek said that while there had been daily updates about the Covid death toll, there had been less thought about the nature of death itself - and the life beyond.

"Throughout this time of viral pandemic there has been a right focus on keeping people safe and alive. Yet perhaps we have not focused enough on our end and our mortality," she said.

"There has of course been daily communication regarding the number of deaths from Covid-19, and none of us are immune to the heart-breaking grief for those who have been bereaved and had to navigate funerals amid painful restrictions; but as we enter into a very different Christmas, we might be tempted to inoculate ourselves against the trauma of this past year by losing ourselves in short-lived festivities rather than opening ourselves to the wonder of eternal hope at the heart of Christmas." 

She added that in the Christmas story itself, there were echoes of death. 

"The invitation to peer into the manger to see new birth is also an invitation to encounter the one who came to die. Both are about God's heart of love," she said. 

"When Jesus Christ was cruelly nailed to a cross it seemed as if everything had gone horribly wrong, yet three days later when he came back to life, he embodied the overwhelming mystery that God's life is stronger than death and God's hope is stronger than despair."

Christmas also points believers "to the future — to the end of time as we know it and, we hope, the beginning of inexplicable eternity when there will be no need to be distanced socially from God or each other, and creation will be restored", she continued.

The bishop went on to say that she was celebrating the "joyous arrival of life-giving vaccinations" and was "deeply thankful" for the scientists who had made the breakthrough.

"I also celebrate the good news of Christmas and the beginning of the end, which will be a new beginning," she concluded.

"I wonder if in our encounters amid the tinsel, holly and wrapping paper, we might have the courage to talk about death this Christmas. That too might be life-giving."