Scotland's religious leaders and charities share the messages of hope.

Bishop Mark Strange, Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church

‘Unto us a child is born.’ Those are the words I will proclaim on Christmas morning. But this year the cathedral will be very quiet, with only fifty worshippers allowed to attend. There will be no singing, no hugging, and no handshakes, yet the message will be the same; the joy will be the same.

People talk about the pandemic ‘stealing’ Christmas or that the Government’s rules have ‘cancelled Christmas’. My response is that these verdicts are nonsense. The birthday of Jesus cannot simply be cancelled any more than my own birthday can be cancelled (however much I may wish it could). What will be different this year are the festivities of our Christmas holiday.

I love Christmas but I live it in two different although complimentary ways. I love the Yule season, the winter holiday, the good food, families gathering, meeting friends, having a good time.

But I also rejoice at the Christian part of Christmas, the festival of Christ’s birth. This year as always I will celebrate that with joy and adoration. My community will offer prayers and we will kneel at the altar and give thanks.

The Christian message is that we should show the love we find in God with all those we share this world with. We will pray for others, for those who are struggling with isolation, those who are struggling to make ends meet, and those who are fearful for the future. We will remember those who have died this year and give thanks for the care they received. Prayers will also be offered for those who will feel the pressure of this different Christmas.

I am humbled by being a leader of a faith that has at its core the call to show the love of God to the world, where we offer that love in the way we live our lives. We do that by caring for the least advantaged, by caring for this planet we too often abuse, by caring for the frightened and the lonely, but also by giving thanks for the gift of a child born in a stable who, I believe, offers salvation to us all.

Rabbi Moshe Rubin, Giffnock & Newlands Hebrew Congregation, Senior Rabbi of Scotland

The word dreich, describing a bleak and dreary day in Scotland, has been voted as the Scots favourite word. However one of my favourite Scottish descriptions of rain is liquid sunshine. To me it sums up Scottish people and their mentality - you can take what could be a miserable experience and transform it into sunshine. Maybe that is why Scotland is the home of golf despite the dreich weather because we make sunshine out if it.

We are now almost a year into the covid pandemic and there is good news on the horizon with the vaccine being rolled out over the whole country. However as the endless announcements of restrictions continue it is hard to find hope, it is hard to find the sunshine in this situation.

But When I think back to how local neighbourhoods, faith communities, friendship clubs, social care organisations and millions of individuals sprung into action when lockdown began, providing help, whether it was doing shopping for others, keeping in touch or just keeping an eye on a elderly neighbour - I am infused with hope.

Loneliness could be one the most scariest experiences and during this festive season, a time of the year when families get together, loneliness adds to the worries that the pandemic generates.

So let us increase and intensify that communal spirit, in a safe and legal way. Let’s bring cheer, comfort, encouragement and strength - in other words hope - to our family, friends, neighbours and neighbourhood. A phone call, a letter dropped in through the letterbox, a box of chocolates or just a reassuring smile goes a long way for someone feeling lonely.

The late Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks wrote, “Optimism is the belief that things are going to get better. Hope is the belief that we can make things better. Optimism is a passive virtue, hope is an active one. It takes no courage to be an optimist, but it does need courage to hope.”

Every act of kindness, big or small, creates hope and transforms dreich into sunshine.

Imam Sayed Razawi, Chief Imam – Director General, Scottish Ahlul Bayt Society

As we come to the end of this year, there is little doubt that the last ten months have been one of the most difficult periods in modern history, not just in terms of the pandemic but also clouded by the uncertainty of Brexit.

This Christmas Day will certainly be important for our nation. Christmas is a time for family, community, compassion, love and in essence, coming together. In times of crisis, we require moments like these; a chance to bolster the morale of the nation. Muslim families too will be celebrating - ‘halal turkey’ will probably be on the menu, but the most important thing is that we will all be celebrating together.

The inclusion Scotland has shown in the last year is what makes me proud to be Scottish. Where parts of the world have witnessed an unfortunate rise in xenophobia and discrimination in the wake of the Covid 19 pandemic, Scotland has experienced hope. Faith communities have come together in all their diversity to shop for the vulnerable, help those shielding, feed the homeless and care for the lonely. It gives me hope when I see Christians and Muslims drop food to homeless shelters; it gives me hope when Churches, Mosques and Temples use their kitchens to prepare food for those requiring it; it gives me hope when Priests, Rabbis and Imams are helping each other cope with the pressures of their ministries; it gives me hope that in times of crisis, we as a nation, faith or no faith, have the will to extend our hand and our hearts to our neighbours.

How we move forward from here will be important, but having witnessed good-will, friendship and trust that has built in Scotland in these challenging times, my humble opinion is that we will be just fine.