Just as a glow on the eastern sky tells us that a long night is over, Jesus’ birth signals the beginning of the end for a dark night of fear, hostility, violence & the greed that has descended on our world. Jesus’ birth signals the start of a new day, a new way, a new understanding of what it means to be alive. Aliveness, He will teach, is a gift available to all by God’s grace. It flows not from taking but from giving, not from fear but from faith, not from conflict but from reconciliation, not from domination but from service. It isn’t found in the outward trappings of religion, rules & rituals, controversies & scruples, temples & traditions. No, it springs from our innermost being like a fountain of living water. It intoxicates like the best wine ever & so turns life from a disappointment into a banquet. This new light of aliveness & love opens us up to rethink everything, to go back & become like little children again. Then we can rediscover the world with a fresh child-like wonder, seeing the world in new light, the light of the new born Christ. At Christmas we remember a silent holy night long ago when a young & very pregnant woman & a weary man walking beside her, who had travelled over 80 miles a journey of several days, from Nazareth in the province of Galilee to Bethlehem in the province of Judea. Mary went into labour, & because no one could provide them with a normal bed in a normal house, she had to give birth in a stable. We can imagine oxen donkeys & cattle filling the air with their sounds & scent as Mary wrapped the baby in rags & laid him in a manger, a food trough for farm animals. On that night, in such a humble place, enfleshed in a tiny vulnerable homeless helpless baby, God’s light began to glow. Politicians compete for the highest offices. Business tycoons scramble for a bigger & better piece of the pie. Armies march, scientists study, philosophers philosophise, preachers preach, & labourers sweat. But in the silent baby, lying in that humble manger, there pulses more potential power & wisdom, & grace & aliveness than all the rest of us can imagine. To be alive in the adventure of Jesus is to kneel at the manger & gaze upon the little baby who is radiant with so much promise for our world today. So let us light a candle for the Christ child, for the infant Jesus, the Word made flesh. Let our hearts glow with that light that was in Him, so that we become candles through which His light shines still. For Christmas is a process as well as an event. Your heart & mine become the little town, the stable & the manger..especially now. Let a new day, a new creation, a new you & me, begin. Let there be light!” [We make the road by walking; Brian D McLaren]
On your behalf, I would like to express our gratitude to those of you who will be serving our parish family at our four Christmas Masses, two on Christmas Eve, two on Christmas Morning, in various ministries, from ministers of welcome, readers, sanitisers of benches & musicians, & indeed those who have decorated the Church and the Christmas tree so beautifully. Happily it looks as if there will be some spare capacity at each of these Masses for our herdwicks, who arrive unannounced & thankfully will indeed find room at the inn this year, when it seemed at one stage we would be short of space to welcome everyone, having to maintain social distancing & thereby reduce capacity.
Please keep our Monastic Community in your prayers, & indeed all who work & are schooled at the College, in these uncertain times. We hold our Abbatial Election at the Abbey on 4&5 January 2021, & do include us in your prayers from Christmas through to the New Year, that we may discern wisely under the guidance of the Holy Spirit “in choosing the one who takes the place of Christ in the monastery, leading by two distinct methods of teaching; by the example of their lives they lead [ that is the most important way] & by the words they use in their teaching.” [Ch 2 of Rule of St Benedict]
With my love and prayers for a special Christmas, Fr Bede