This is the script of this morning’s Pause for Thought on the Chris Evans Show on BBC Radio 2 with Sara Cox (and after a nice chat with Strictly dancers Ian Waite and Natalie Lowe):

Guess whose birthday it is today?

OK, yeah, Paris Hilton and swimmer Rebecca Adlington … and probably a few thousand people listening to the programme now – in which case, happy birthday to you.

But, the one I am thinking about is Ed Sheeran. 26 today. How do I know? Well, someone told me he originally comes from Hebden Bridge in my patch of West Yorkshire, and I thought I’d check it out. They’re right … and I noticed that it’s his birthday today.

So, open your ears: I’m going to pause for a thought (which means thinking out loud) about one of his best-known songs – recently nominated for a Grammy. Love yourself is a great command … or invitation. After all, there are plenty of people who don’t love themselves – or don’t believe themselves to be lovable – and who sometimes then find it difficult to love others.

There is a link here that Jesus got in one when he asked his followers to love God and love your neighbour as yourself. Actually, he was picking up on a maxim that had already been around for a thousand years or more, but he gave it a new twist – and it goes a bit like this:

Loving yourself can turn you into a narcissist who sees everyone and everything through a lens shaped only like yourself. (Apparently, even leaders of countries are not exempt from this.) This makes me the centre of the world – even other people’s worlds. It isn’t attractive, and it can produce dreadful selfishness.

So, this is why Jesus gets the order right: loving God turns your attention away from needing to justify your own worthiness and focuses on something much more fundamental. I matter because I am made in the image of God. Therefore, I see myself through God’s eyes: infinitely valuable and eternally loved. So, what do I do with this? Well, it turns me outwards to love other people whose value is to be found in the same way. I am loved, therefore I love.

So, Ed has got it right: love yourself, but only once you know you are loved. And then pass it on.

So, happy birthday Ed Sheeran. Have a good one, and may it be filled with love.

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This is the script of this morning's Pause for Thought on BBC Radio 2's Chris Evans Show with Jake Bugg, a Salvation Army band and the Strictly Come Dancing finalists in the studio (earlier). There are thirteen Jake Bugg song titles in there somewhere…

There are some miserable people around, aren't there?

Somebody told me that Christmas will be an anticlimax because the Strictly final comes before it. If you've been swept away by the hype around ballroom dancing, this may be true; but, for me and you the truth is we haven't yet seen it all.

I don't go along with the miseries who complain that some people only ever come to church at Christmas where we can ooh and aah about the baby in the manger without letting him grow into the man on the cross. I think it's brilliant that people come to hear the story afresh – to taste it in words and drama and music and touch the mystery of it all. Although we complicate it a million times, the Christmas story is as simple as this: God coming among us as one of us and defying all the hatred and violence that always seems to win in the world. A Christmas carol is a song about love – the uncomplicated love of God offered to us messed up kids who know we need it.

So, bring on the tinsel and stick the angel on your tree. Hang out the banners and raise a glass to love. Light a fire of forgiveness and be surprised that all the predictability can be broken by a lightning bolt of joy – seeing in the face of the baby in Bethlehem both your own face and the face of the God who loves you.

Now, if that sounds a bit preachy, er … well, I guess it is. After all, when angels sang on the hillsides they didn't apologise for intruding into people's routines. At carol services throughout December people have been unashamedly belting out glorias in excelsis Deo and found some place of holy contemplation amid the madness.

If nothing else, seeing the Jesus of the nativity might just provoke us to turn our attention to those who find no home, no inn, no welcome this Christmas. And the man he grew into might also ask us why people have no home, no company, no welcome this Christmas.

Note to self: be loved, then love it out.