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Wednesday, October 26, 2016
Christmas message from Bishop of Clifton
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¬†When I was a boy growing up on the Isle of Wight, one of the local news items at Christmas was the report about whether and when Christmas parcels of food, drink and presents had been delivered to the lighthouse keepers on the Needles. Often heavy seas could delay their arrival. And I used to think how nice it would be to spend Christmas in a lighthouse. It was a romantic dream because I am sure the reality was quite different and the men in the lighthouse would have much preferred to be at home with their families and friends. Christmas can sometimes be seen as a romantic dream ≠ a nostalgic moment which we try to recapture with trees, decorations, food and presents. Even the prophets of the Old Testament, such as Isaiah, can reinforce that nostalgia by speaking about the wolf living with the lamb, the panther lying down with the kid, the cow and the bear making friends, the child playing over the cobra's hole. Do we believe this to be possible? The First Christmas was not romantic. The birth of Jesus took place in Bethlehem in a less than ideal situation. He entered into the lives of people oppressed by an occupying power and whose daily experience of life was often harsh and cruel. Throughout his life Jesus often began conversations with people who had lost hope with the words "Do not be afraid". He came in the name of God not to intimidate but to set free. He came so that people could discover peace within themselves and have peace between themselves, with God and with the whole of creation. Christmas may be time for romantic dreams and nostalgia. We need a bit of that in our lives. More importantly it is a time for vision, for vision which brings hope. In our everyday lives at home, at work, where we shop and where we spend our leisure time, we can feel vulnerable, lonely, lost, intimidated and have a sense of failure. As much as other generations we need those words "Do not be afraid". We need to know that life can be different ≠ better. In the yearnings of our hearts we are a people searching for something we have not yet found. What we are looking for is life, ultimately life in its fullness with God. Life comes when we know we are loved and we are able to love. We are made for love. At the same time we are aware that we do the exact opposite of loving. We alienate and are alienated. Into our love and alienation comes Jesus who opens to us the way of life. Seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened. We need poets to express our dreams. Isaiah was such a poet ≠ a great poet. He knew that the wolf and the lamb, the panther and the kid, the child and the cobra were made not to be enemies but to be friends. In poetic language he knew there could be peace on earth and good will amongst people. A happy and peaceful Christmas to you in the reality of your life.
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