Over the past nine months or so I have had to try and make sense of some pretty bizarre statements via the realm of 24 hour “news” and social media platforms, from whose respective clutches, I have thankfully been able to liberate myself! I have also, in my humble opinion had to get my head around a school of logic bestowed from on high (and here I am not making reference to heaven) that would have startled and confused even Aristotle himself. But surely the most outrageous claim came in the strapline heralded across most of the national newspapers (again from which I have liberated myself) that such and such a person was going to, wait for it, “Save Christmas.” In all my 30 years as a priest I think this, above all other slogans that have come and gone, epitomises for me how disconnected our nation has become from its Christian roots. The idea to Christians is of course, and many others I dare say, including my Moslem sister -in – law, absurd and quite frankly, ridiculous. The Incarnate God does not need saving by any form of Erastian politics (do have a google); it is my firm conviction that quite the opposite is the case.
In candlelit churches Christians throughout the world celebrate the Incarnation – God becoming man. In doing so they move quite beyond sugary sentimentality that is so characteristic of the season (although I will of course myself continue to watch, It’s A Wonderful Life on numerous occasions from the 29th of November onwards). The Incarnation makes the most extraordinary claim that it is God’s will that mankind shares in his divinity. That is, not only the His promise of eternal life but His very presence in our daily lives. At the Incarnation we are reminded that human life is far more than simply the sum of its physical parts. It is precious and it is fragile; we do not control it and neither do we own it. The gift of life, however we may experience it in our own story, comes from God.
The Narrative with which the Church is so familiar during Advent speaks of the wonderful joy of knowing that we are in God’s hands; not the Erastian state nor any other tentacle that might be an expression of it. Remember that Our Lady travelled with faith in God’s promises supported by St Joseph and the two of them made it safely to the inn keeper’s in Bethlehem. Recall that Mary trusted in the words of Gabriel and Joseph obeyed the voice of the angel that he should take her as his wife. Call to mind that they journeyed together with God at their very centre; a journey led them to Egypt with our Infant King. Along the way they would no doubt have encountered all sorts of perils and difficulties, surmounting hurdles, and difficulties with God at their centre. They eventually returned to their own land. God was their salvation.
We have no idea what awaits us as we journey on into 2021; I’m sure that none of us could possibly have imagined the events of 2020. So we move forward as a Church, as committed Christians, with Emmanuel, God with us. With him lies our hope, with him lies our joy, with him lies our security, our safety and our destiny. The real Christmas does not require saving; it simply needs to be embraced.
A Holy and blessed Advent and Christmastide to you all