This has been a year like no other, and certainly one everyone in Hackney will remember forever.

Sitting here just before Christmas, no one would have guessed just 12 months ago the year of challenge, change and heartbreak that the year 2020 would turn out to be.

For our church community in Hackney Central, the year has been defined by two questions that I would guess applies to people, businesses and communities across Hackney.

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First, how do we make it through? And second, what can we do to help?

Having reflected on those two questions, the fact is that when we look back in years to come, Hackney can be so proud. As difficult as it has been, this year has also brought out the very best in our community - the Hackney spirit we all know and love has shouted so loudly, right across our borough.

As we reflect on one of the key themes of the Christmas story - the coming of hope into the world in the person of Jesus Christ - Hackney really has shone in the darkness.

At Hackney Church we have been blown away by the response we have seen to the need all around us this year. People have been incredible – helping us to serve almost 200,000 meals to people in need since the first lockdown began in March through our Lighthouse Project.

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This reminds us that one thing about Christmas 2020 is exactly the same as last year.

Just as in 2019, and for hundreds of years before that, people in Hackney have gathered at this time of year to celebrate the lighting up of the darkness as God entered the world in the form of a baby.

Whether you're a person of faith or no faith, we come together because this is a moment when we say that light is stronger than darkness. What unites us is greater than what divides us.

So, my encouragement this Christmas is that hope as found in Jesus cannot be extinguished; that together, we are going to make it through.

2021 is going to be an amazing year, and that Hackney spirit is going to shine through all we do in the year ahead, more so than ever before.

From everyone here at Hackney Church, I wish you all a Christmas full of hope, love and joy, and a peaceful and restful break.

  • Reverend Al Gordon is rector of the Church of St John at Hackney.