Birmingham: Archbishop Nichols at Christmas Midnight Mass

 Christian discipleship is like Strictly Come Dancing, the Archbishop of Birmingham, the Most Reverend Vincent Nichols, said during his homily at Christmas Midnight Mass in St Chad's Cathedral, Birmingham. Archbishop Nichols said: "Being a disciple of Christ is a bit like Strictly Come Dancing. It's true. Just think about it! "In Jesus, each of us receives a partner. The partner is, in a way, the professional. He is the Lord of the Dance. He is Lord because he is the master craftsman. He knows the dance because he is its creator, its original choreographer. He is our partner because he shares our nature and knows us through and through. So we can take hold and let him lead, shape and direct the way we go. Indeed at times he will carry us. "In this relationship with the Lord there are in fact many different dances. We may think that religion is rather like the formal ballroom dances: measured, elegant, at times over formalised yet also very beautiful at times. But there's more to our discipleship than that. "The Lord of the Dance accompanies us also in the passion and intensity of our Latin dances, shaping our love, acting as our tutor in self-forgetfulness. e is actually alongside us in the exuberance of the dance hall jives, directing our youthful energies and fashioning our sense of purpose. "He is there as well in those times of free-expression, which, as we saw, can go awfully wrong! There is no aspect of our living in which the Lord does not accompany us, lead us and teach us, if we let him. "Of course we must learn the steps. Our life of faith requires all those hours of practice in the workshop. It is there, often as not, that our tears and frustrations emerge, in those times of intimacy, of daily prayer and attentiveness to the Master. Without those disciplines, that regular practice of the faith, you and I know we will make no progress. "How fascinating it was to get a glimpse into the dance workshops, and see the care and mutual understanding of the partners growing week by week with all the effort they put in together. Our life with the Lord is no different. "Yet the fruit of that hard work, the hard work of personal prayer, of repentance for past mistakes, of the growth of our understanding of faith and of putting it into practice, all has to be shared. Our life of faith never remains private. "We must come to the great dance floor of our shared living, at home, at work and here in the church and make our offering, presenting it to one another, encouraging each other and, indeed, rejoicing together. The journey of discipleship, which we seek to renew in ourselves tonight, is one of great joy and deep satisfaction. It is worth every effort. "This midnight celebration, this feast of Christmas, expresses the unswerving desire of God to embrace each one of us, to engage with us in our project of life. He comes that we may not be alone, never struggle in vain and never be overwhelmed by our frustrations and loss." Archbishop Nichols concluded: "Let us, each one of us, renew our resolve to enter again into this relationship with the Lord by which we gain our identity as Catholics, as Christians, in our world today. This is a demanding pathway, but hugely rewarding and one on which we can embark afresh with great confidence. "As we do so, we can look forward to joining in the quickstep of the angels of heaven who, as the Gospel tell us, showed something of their nifty footwork when they came to sing: 'Glory to God in the highest heavens and peace to those who enjoy his favour.' The shepherds were amazed. The angels got four straight tens!"

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