CHRISTMAS MESSAGES 2012: Recognise the materiality of Christmas at two levels

“AND the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us”

Those words from the beginning of St John’s Gospel that we hear every Christmas never fail to move me deeply.

For one thing they tell us that Christianity is an utterly materialistic faith; it is not a faith that makes a division between the material and the spiritual, rather it is through the material world that God has chosen to make himself particularly known to us.

This is glimpsed at the beginning of the bible where creation is seen as inherently very good – above all it is seen in the person of Jesus.

We can, of course, abuse and misuse the material world and we frequently do; we can forget that, as the beginning of John also says, “this is the true light that enlightens everyone” and so fail to see all human beings as being made in the image of God and this equally deserving of love and respect.

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The Christ child has most in common with the homeless, with refugees, with the outcasts and with the helpless and we in the church constantly struggle with that.

As I wish you all a heartfelt Happy Christmas, I finish by quoting from a well-known poem by John Betjeman.

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He recognises the materiality of Christmas at two levels – one that we will all share to a degree and try to some extent to keep under control; the other that reminds us that the “word made flesh” is not a past event but present reality if we can but recognise it.

And is it true? And is it true?

The most tremendous tale of all,

Seen in a stained glass window’s hue,

A baby is an ox’s stall?

The maker of the stars and sea

Becomes a child on earth for me?

And is it true? For if it is.

No loving fingers tying strings

Around those tissued fripperies,

The sweet and silly Christmas things

Bath salts and inexpensive scent

And hideous tie so kindly meant,

No love that in a family dwells,

No carolling in frosty air,

Nor all the steeply-shaking bells

Can with this single truth compare –

That God was man in Palestine

And lives today in bread and wine

“And is it true?” I believe it is and we,

the world and the angels rejoice.

A happy and blessed Christmas to all.

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