Bishop’s Message: Christmas 2014

Christmas Tree Festival 712cropWhen does the preparation begin for Christmas? Is it Advent, or is it Black Friday?

It seems that British market forces have now fully embraced the American event of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. You can see the attraction: offer bargains at the beginning of the Christmas rush and encourage people to start shopping rather than delay until the sales. However, the ugly scenes of raw consumerism in some shops is hardly embracing the spirit of goodwill. There is no sense of community amongst shoppers who are not so much amongst neighbours as combatants engaged in the bargain hunt!

It’s a far cry from midnight mass or Christmas carols. Yet the message of good will needs still to be proclaimed. But in context. Relationships, as I have been saying all year, are at the heart of our faith and our church life. As Christians we cannot ignore bad relationships. Whether it’s at the shops or in the pew, all Christians are called to reflect upon their relations with others at a meaningful level. Christians have always been asked to be judged by their behaviour – “see how these Christians love each other”. So, be patient with others and don’t put yourself first.

This openness to embrace right living is not based on a social or ethical code only but on the deepest and most profound relationship we can have – which is with God.

Christmas celebrates the opening of that relationship with God at a global level as he enters humanity in love and integrity. The human journey of Christ is our journey of intimacy and love with God. Or at least it can be. The challenge we all face is how we relate to God as a person rather than a commodity who provides things for us. This is so basic yet it can be so easily neglected. Richard Rohr, the Franciscan writer says:

“Personal” in my definition means that an actual give and take is somehow possible, and believers are not merely interacting with an impersonal force, idea, law or rule. In that sense, many Christians, in fact, do not really have a personal relationship with God at all! God is more like a handy ATM that permits both deposits and withdrawals than an interactive “personal” relationship we call love.  (ref Eager to love)

There would be a certain irony at Christmas if our relationship with God mirrors our consumerism on the streets. The reason we have the seasons in the Christian year is both to celebrate and remember the great ‘God events’. We realign ourselves with the message, but more importantly we realign ourselves with a personal God who loves us without strings attached.

Christmas makes it happen and our duty and our joy (to quote the Eucharist) is to share the good news of the Father’s love for the world and each and every person.

Communion not consumerism is the way of life.

Bishop Richard