Hello from home.
The decorations are up and the lights are on but we are stuck in the house!
Whilst Santa doesn’t bring the same excitement in our home these days, I look back at wonderful Christmas excitement when we couldn’t get the children to bed and they could hear the sleigh on the roof.
Christmas is also a time when we gather with family and friends to celebrate. I’ve just tested positive so in our house this year it will be quiet with none of the usual visitors.
For nearly two years now we have been living with the impact of Covid and the consequences that restrictions have had.
Like countless others across Northern Ireland, I understand the difficulties that restrictions have caused.
I buried my dad in lockdown. We have a large family and had to abide by the limited numbers. It was difficult. I know the pain of watching those who believe they are above the rules.
But I also know the threat from Covid continues to be real and should not be underestimated. My symptoms are fairly mild so far and I credit that to the vaccine.
There are tools in the fight against the virus - and key to these is the booster vaccine programme.
I got my booster a couple of weeks ago and that extra protection is very welcome.
I urge everyone to get their vaccine and their booster jab. That helps protect us against serious illness, but vitally offers the best safeguard for our Health Service.
Many of those Health Service staff and other blue light services will be working throughout the Christmas period. They make individual sacrifices but work as a team to serve and protect us all as a community.
Their efforts are one of the many reasons that we can look ahead to the future with hope.
The Christmas story is one of the ultimate hope. It is also set against a backdrop of human uncertainty and difficulties which have many parallels over 2,000 years later.
Mary and Joseph arrived in a town where no one would give a pregnant woman a room. The cosy image of a stable seems idyllic under the stars but that was no place for a baby to be born.
Northern Ireland is full of good people. We debate politics but at our core we are a kind people. Whether British, Irish or Northern Irish, we would never turn anyone away from the door who was in need of help. They would always get a cup of tea.
We pull together to help when the need arises. Our generosity is known across the world.
I know the challenges and difficulties that we face today but for my part I will try my best to work with the Government in London to ensure we get a better deal from Brussels and the support we need to help families though this pandemic.
From this covid positive home, we wish you all a peaceful Christmas and a happy New Year