BATHURST Christians have been urged to not let COVID restrictions dampen their celebration of Christmas this year.
In their annual messages to parishioners, both Catholic Bishop Michael McKenna and Anglican Bishop Mark Calder have acknowledged that Christmas services will look a little different this year but that the message remains the same.
They call on the Bathurst faithful to still revel in the traditional meaning of the Christmas season and the miracle of the birth of Christ.
"Christmas celebrations this year will not be quite the same, particularly in our churches, where restrictions still apply," Bishop McKenna said.
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"It will be a demanding time, especially for our priests, who will be offering extra masses to ensure that as many people as possible can celebrate the birth of the Christ child worthily.
"It is a good time to give thanks for our priests, who have quietly and steadfastly shown their pastoral hearts throughout this difficult year.
"May the knowledge that the Son of God has entered our troubled world, to conduct us to the new creation, fill your hearts and minds with the faith, hope and love he wants to share with you here and now."
Bishop Calder said COVID had caused its share of grief this year and forced many to change their plans for Christmas, but "is not so powerful that it can change the meaning of Christmas".
He said Christmas was a reminder that Christ was "one of us" and had walked the earth with us.
"That means he gets us. He knows life! And he's still with us - by his Spirit," Bishop Calder said.
"In all our joys and laughter. In all our pain and grief. God is with us! This too is pretty wonderful."
Bishop McKenna also noted the dramatic change across the Bathurst region since his last Christmas message, which focused on the need to support our communities through drought and bushfires.
"Since then, thank God, the rains have come and we rejoice in the growth that we see around us," Bishop McKenna said.
"Full recovery from the losses that our farmers and communities suffered will take longer and we must continue to look out for one another, but we are on our way.
"Now, we are in a time of pandemic, waiting for a stubborn virus to go away.
"In Australia and here in our own diocese, we have not been as badly hit as other regions and other countries. But we have all been affected here, some of us greatly.
"Again, it has evoked a good spirit of caring for one another, which we hope will continue."
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