Minister's Message

Christmas Message – 2012
I’ve often been struck by the human capacity to feel two things at the same moment. For many years I was a part-time chaplain in mental health. One long-term resident, who I’d often chat to while doing my rounds, nearly always replied the same way when I asked her how she was, “Oh, the usual” she would say, “Happy and sad, happy and sad.”
In similar fashion, with Christmas meaning so many things to different people, sometimes our feelings about the season can conflict. And we can feel several things – even contrasting things – all at the same time.
We may find cynicism jostling with sentimentality, fantasy with hard realities; joy with apprehension or even fear, hope alongside a nagging fear of dread or despair. These are all very real, and are not perhaps as mutually exclusive as they may first seem.
We could point to many other contrasts. While Christmas may herald a magical family time on the one hand, it may also simultaneously come as an enforced reminder of personal loss and loneliness on the other, or of frustrations within the families we are actually part of.
A Latin poet, Gaius Valerius Catullus (c84 – c54 BC), wrote the famous lines “I hate and I love. And if you ask me how, I do not know. I only feel it and am torn in two.”
There are many, perhaps, for whom Christmas conjures up a similar set of love-hate emotions.
On the one hand, the Christian message contained within the Bethlehem story is one of unrestrained joy and exuberance at the appearance of the Son of God in human flesh. Yet this sits side by side with an astonishingly realistic account of the difficulties and even brutalities of the world into which He entered. Neither is tempered by the other. They both exist together and in collision.
But the purpose is not that they should remain forever in tension. Light does not modify darkness. It dispels it. It cannot ultimately coexist with its antithesis. One must conquer the other. And the message is that The Light will prevail.
Jewish writer, Elie Wiesel, tells the story of two rabbis who met after the events the Holocaust. One said to the other, “After all that has happened, how can you still believe?” And the other replied, “After all that has happened, how can you not believe?”
The narrative of faith collides with the narrative of unbelief. The message of
Christmas calls us to faith in a God who is not afar off, but who entered our world to engage with the darkness and dispel it – forever.  
Herein springs hope eternal.

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