Posted by: owizblog | December 26, 2015

Bute Island Radio Christmas Message 2015

We don’t tend to innovate much at Christmas, do we? It’s a time for doing what we’ve always done, for making sure that we have in the house the favourite things we always have – especially foodstuffs and goodies! I remember, my first few months in the ministry, how in that first Advent I was silly enough to mention from the pulpit that although I never ate them during the rest of the year, I always felt there was something missing if there weren’t dates in the house at Christmas!

They were a kindly folk, my first congregation, and the following morning, I found six boxes of dates left for me by parishioners in the Manse porch! I ate them and enjoyed them – and to be honest I wasn’t terribly well on Boxing Day or for a couple of days afterwards. But the thoughtfulness was lovely…

When you think about it, the best innovations at the Christmas Dinner table are the things that are a surprising new twist on the old, traditional things – fry a wee bit bacon in a wok, and once your sprouts are cooked, toss them quickly in the bacon and oil – but remember, life is still too short for stuffing mushrooms! In just the same way, I think that the best approach to Christmas is to come to it each year, looking for the new in the old. That’s what we do in every Carol Service, and especially every Nativity Play, we attend during Advent.

That’s how we look into the manger, and see what’s really there.

The great German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who died so young, under the Nazis, put it like this.

“Where Jesus is, there we are, whether we know it or not; that is true because of the incarnation… The Christmas message for all people runs ‘You are accepted; God has not rejected you… Look into the cradle! In the body of the little child… all your flesh, all your distress, anxiety, temptation… sin, is borne, forgiven and healed… The Christmas message replies ‘Your nature, your whole being, is accepted. Jesus bears it. In this way he has become your Saviour.’”

My understanding, like Bonhoeffer’s is that the heart of Christmas is the love and acceptance and reconciliation we find in, and through, the child in the manger. For me, every experience we have, this Christmas, of love, of unconditional acceptance, maybe of reconciliation and of peace where previously there was no peace in our lives,  points to that heart. For me, for Bonhoeffer, it points to God.  That may or may not be your faith, as you listen to this, but I hope that for all of you Christmas is a time of joy, and peace, and pause. We can all find a newness in the ancient feast year by year, no matter if we do celebrate it in exactly the same way each year! Because what is really at the heart of it is very ancient, and newer than new. A peaceful and blessed Christmas to you all!

And go easy on the dates…

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