Robin Blount: ecumenical notes, cruise ship chaplaincy and lots more


27 December 2022

I struggle with Christmas. Of course it's a joyous time of year - families getting together, children excited about presents, the sad longing for just a little snow to bring the magic nearer. But there are many folk who, like me, try to see beyond the stories in Matthew and Luke, thinking that these accounts really do not narrate actual events. The stories really are, quite literally, make-believe - written long after the birth of Jesus to provide a framework through which we can glimpse something of the significance of his coming. They are here to help us believe.

Surfing the internet, looking for contemporary carols, I came across one by Gordon Bottomley, written in 1902 - "O' Bethlem town tonight is cold." Just one phrase struck me - here is the whole third verse:
Or is it that we cannot hear
the least of spiritual songs,
and know not some strange joy more near
than too familiar angel-throngs?
Of Him the greater is our need
whose life has dwindled to a creed.
It was that last couple of lines that got to me. It sums up what saddens me beyond words - that the reforming movement that Jesus initiated so soon became the institutional Church, beset with arguments and division, and attempting to convey everything that Jesus was and did in a few short credal sentences. As if that were possible!

King Charles, in his first Christmas broadcast, used the motif of light to inspire us all to be careful toward others. This, surely, is our mission - to recover some of the zeal and courage of those first followers of Jesus, who managed to set the world alight by just being and doing what Jesus did.

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