Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

Christmas Magazine Article

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014

Giving something one doesn’t have
to someone who doesn’t want it.
Jacques Lacan’s definition of love

This French psychoanalyst’s definition of love enriches our understanding of Christmas and God’s love for us. Love is often something unasked for, awkward to receive, and not owned by the lover. Just as God the Father did not own the Son and does not force us to receive him. We can enjoy Christmas with only a few more pounds on the credit card and the waist, or we can be struck by the wonder of God’s love. It’s our choice.

The Bible verse that encapsulates Christmas is John 1:14, “the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us”. This is the striking account of God (the Word) coming among us in human form; literally in the flesh. Many are happy to celebrate the season with carol services and family gatherings but what difference would it make to our lives if we really tried to live out this gift of love?

It is hard to live faith as a way of life. Our contemporary society is happy to embrace faith as a private concern which does not impact upon others. The philosopher, Slavoj Žižek, puts it like this, “Religion is only permitted as a particular ‘culture’, or lifestyle phenomenon, not as a substantial way of life”. He goes on to say that religion which is not a substantial way of life is like drinking coffee without caffeine, or beer without alcohol. The whole point of Christian faith is it substantially changes our life.

In Christ’s time, it was scandalous that God would come to us “in the flesh”. Flesh was far too weak and messy to be the vehicle that carried the one so different from us; the one who is the creative desire of the universe and the source of being. In contemporary times we so often deny this radical otherness of God; reducing him/her/it to a personal feeling or minor belief.

This Christmas let’s have caffeine in our coffee, alcohol in our beer and worship God who is both so completely other from us yet present in the messy flesh of a dirty manger.

With love & joy this Christmas Paul

Christmas Magazine Article

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

God shows his love for us by taking a vast risk, and

each Christmas we are jolted into looking at it afresh

Sister Jane, Sisters of the Love of God

The Christian message is that God takes a risk with us. In Jesus he comes to us as a helpless baby who then has to flee as a refugee to Egypt. As an adult, he risks rejection which ends in his degrading and painful crucifixion. He continues to come today in our prayer, in our reflecting upon the Bible and in our breaking of bread. How do we respond in welcome to him today?

 

How we welcome God, the ground of our being, is reflected in how we welcome the stranger, the naked, or the imprisoned. Our welcome of God is not primarily about intellectually engaging with philosophy or emotionally engaging with the nativity story. It’s about practically engaging with our neighbour in their place of need. God takes a risk with us and in turn we are called to take a risk with our fellow man, woman and child; with those who are created in his image. The stranger, almost by definition, can make us feel awkward. But every time we ignore the stranger we reject an encounter with God.

 

It’s not that we set out to ignore God or our neighbour. It’s just that our lives can become too busy and, in our rush, we can make snap or harsh judgements. Pope Benedict XVI, in reflecting upon the Christmas message of God among us, lamented that we can fail to respond to God, especially as he is revealed in our neighbour. He asks, “Do we have time and space for God? Can he enter our lives? Does he find room in us, or have we occupied all the available space in our thoughts, our actions, our lives for ourselves?” Placing ourselves ahead of our neighbours and ahead of God can leave us materially rich but socially poor. Taking a risk for someone created in God’s image is living out the Christmas message.

 

Wishing you a happy Christmas and a joyful New Year.

 

Paul

Christmas Article

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

I like the traditional Christmas carols Richard Dawkins

The world’s most famous atheist could be described as a cultural Christian enjoying both carols and parts of the wider Christmas celebration. What insights can the church gain from his festal joy?

Christians celebrate something beautiful at Christmas. The sound of the opening solo of Once in Royal David’s City, marking the beginning of so many carol services, can feel like a suspension of time, latent with possibility. While the quiet melancholy of Silent Night can meet people in those times of sadness or loneliness. The image of the light coming among us at this time of deepest darkness, during one of the year’s longest nights, recalls the expectant possibility of hope and renewal. While the story of the birth in a stable, before the family flee to Egypt, touches those times when we, or those around us, struggle.

An atheist may call this a myth even if it is beautiful. In doing so they would be using the word myth in its popular understanding of a traditional and untrue story. However, as a Christian I see the power of this myth, its ability to engage and transform people, coming from its truth. The traditional carols engage our minds and imaginations because they convey a timeless truth. A truth often heard in the poetry of the King James Bible, “the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us… full of grace and truth”, (John 1:14).

For Dawkins beauty and truth are unconnected; so there can be beauty in our Christmas celebrations without there being any truth content. I would say this is a misunderstanding; Christmas is beautiful because it conveys truth. There is an Islamic tradition which identifies beauty as a key attribute of God. This beauty is then exquisitely expressed in art and architecture. Beauty is also expressed in the Christian tradition but it is expressed among the dirt and darkness of a stable night because the primary Christian understanding of God is through the vulnerable babe of Bethlehem.

With love, prayers and festive greeting – Paul