Imagining the details of Jesus’ birth has been a popular pastime for much of Christian history. The Mystery Plays that were performed in the Middle Ages, for example, import all kinds of extra characters, like a midwife, [or in Tony Jordan’s BBC production of “the Nativity” a prostitute] to help Mary with the birth. But the Gospel writers just stick to the bare bones of the story. They want us to get a sense of what is happening here, of the contrast between the magnitude of what God is doing & the very ordinary methods used to accomplish it. It is St John’s gospel that really brings out the meaning that the others hint at.. like Luke, John hardly mentions the birth of the child, but he leaves us in no doubt about what is going on. The birth is summed up in one phrase “the Word becomes flesh” .. a human being. John wants us to picture the Word, living in power with God the Father, creating the world, the source of all life. This is what becomes flesh. Th extraordinary power that enabled the whole universe is suddenly contained in a human baby. John wants us to feel the shock of that, to make our imagination reel as we try to think of what that means. If John starts with the big picture, the creative life of God, Christians believe that at Christmas God starts with the small picture. A child is something we can understand, a human baby is a symbol of life & hope, each new human life is miraculous, a whole new person comes into existence. The commonplace miracle of birth is something we almost take for granted. But in the birth of the baby Jesus, this is what God is offering over & over again. This is an integral part of the nature of God, to make new life. That is why there is any life at all, because the creator of the universe is so full of life that it pours out into the world. God is always lifegiving, & the birth of Jesus is God’s offer of new life. A baby starts the world with a clean slate. It can discover its own character. It can interact with what is around it & experience & change & grow. In Jesus, God offers us a chance to start a new life, as though we were born again as babies. We can be born into the family of God & learn from that family environment. Life is natural to God, who does not begrudge it to us, or force it on us. But as we look on the baby Jesus with love & compassion, God hopes we might see that we are longing to be always what we are in that moment. Just like those at Midnight Mass in a quiet country Church, as we look at that baby we are touched. We long to feel we might change into the kind of people who could always sense the presence of the angels & respond with love & kindness to the world around us. At Christmas God says “for nothing is impossible to God” [Approaching Christmas; Jane Williams]
In case you mistakenly think miracles only happen in Bethlehem, a young pupil of ours at St Benedict’s RC PS was debating with his family at home over right & wrong, & his response was “well, if you can’t be a bit naughty, what is the point of Christ dying for us?” ..& the Word was made flesh & lives among us, indeed..
We had four outstanding Christmas Masses last week; under Covid guidelines we can welcome 20 individuals to Mass if they come on their own; with the togetherness of our families we were able to have 111 of you at Mass; Christmas Eve 6pm ; 8.30pm  Christmas Day 9am ; 11am . Thank you to all who came & our four music groups who played & sang carols for us safely & from a distance. Optimistically we had planned for overflow numbers at one or more of the Masses; however, the emergence of the variant in London made joining us too much of a risk, & we must express our appreciation to those who would normally have come specially at Christmas but who realised what risks they might bring to us by their presence this year, a real sense of joint responsibility by all of us, which we confidently hope will make a contribution towards saving lives as we enter a critical month of increased cases. Do please remember in your prayers our own front line disciples in the NHS; Emma Criddle a doctor in St Thomas’ Hospital in London, her Mum Moira nursing locally here, & Philippa Armstrong an anaesthetist, & Liz Depnering a nursing manager in ICU, both of them in York District Hospital.
Martin Browne, after suffering a fractured skull after a fall outside his home just before Christmas, remains poorly & stable in YDH Ward 29. Kitty Greenley, Bill Spence & Ellen Flynn remain safe & well in their respective Care Homes, each receiving a pre-Christmas letter from one of our pupils in St Benedicts RC PS, reminding them how much they still, & always will, belong in our parish family. Please pray for them, & for the many of you who are self-isolating due to covid or underlying health problems, & who we haven’t seen in Church since March or before then.. prayer & loving concern unites us as we pray for you & ask you please to pray for us.. the housebound are undoubtedly the energy providers, the powerstation, for all we attempt in Church & beyond.. with our efforts & their prayers “nothing is impossible to God.”
Our congratulations to Emily & Andy Slingsby on the birth of Arietta Lucy, born on Christmas Day weighing 8lb 10oz. a sister for Louis.. indeed “each new human life is miraculous, a whole new person comes into existence.”
Our Parish continues to provide food through the Food Initiative at a cost of £200 a month. I hope those in our own Village who may be struggling to provide food for their children either in the Christmas holidays, or indeed at any time in this ongoing & increasing crisis in health & in the economy, will be encouraged to benefit from our Food Initiative, where it is possible to approach Ray & Deb in the Village Shop, & quietly ask for a bag of food essentials which will be delivered to your door?. This has been working well since the lockdown began, & it could be more of us in the Village will find themselves in ever deeper need of help, & we would encourage them to ask..it isn’t charity, it is basic good bread & butter Christian discipleship which, at such times of crisis, is asked of us in our plenty. Across the Village there is deep appreciation for the good natured & generous service given by Ray & Deb throughout the crisis, who regularly go the extra mile for us. Food donations to Middlesbrough Food Bank via cash in envelope to Parish House or direct via firstname.lastname@example.org
With my love & prayers, as we await the arrival of the three wise men at our manger on Wednesday, the Epiphany, to complete our togetherness.. Fr Bede