Christmas

The flesh of God

I really wanted to write a perfect post for Christmas. I wanted to condense the mystery of the Incarnation into one short post, to blow minds and set hearts on fire. And every time I approached the mystery, I thought, Ah! Now I’ve got it! Only to find my words still fall an infinite distance short of the reality I was beginning to see. 

I was trying to do the impossible, because the mystery of the Incarnation is the mystery of the Word made flesh, and cannot be expressed except by that flesh. So instead, I invite us to come close to His very flesh. His flesh is the Word we must listen to. No fact about His flesh, no concept of His flesh, but His very flesh. 

Where can we find the flesh of Jesus? In the Eucharist, in our neighbours in their poverty, in the Church by Her love, and in our hearts by our faith. These are the places we must go to this Christmas, to find and adore our new born king. These are the places we must touch God’s flesh, and so hear His Word.

Happy Christmas and God bless you! 

He’s coming

I’ve been feeling pretty adventy (adventurous?) for a few weeks now, so I’m pretty happy it’s now officially advent, and we’re all waiting together.

What I mean is, I’ve been feeling the need for Christ to come lately. There’s so much in the world that just doesn’t make sense, so much sin and meaningless suffering, and it’s been getting to me. I can’t stand it. And so I’ve found myself thinking, when is Jesus coming to sort this out? And thinking about how great it will be when He does.

Advent has confirmed this desire in me, for Christ’s glorious return and judgment, and has also reminded me, that He has already come, and He comes still, and we’re not just passive observers of His coming. I have to do my part. I must prepare the way of the Lord, into my heart, by repentance. And I must welcome Him, recognising His voice, His presence. And I must bear Him to the world with love, magnifying Him and rejoicing in Him.

Repent, welcome, and bear. Repent, clearing away every obstacle, filling in valleys and levelling mountains, so He can march straight in. Welcome, because He’s already here, so we must say our Fiat, let it be done to me, according to Your word, submitting to His will. Bear, carrying  Him with us to the world’s sin and suffering, because He is already with us, and that is what He came for.

To repent is to turn towards Him, to welcome is to listen to Him, to bear Him is to live in love with Him.

And so, by His grace, with our preparation, He comes to us, to our sin and suffering, and makes sense of it by His love, by His life, death and resurrection.

God bless you!

Christmas

There is no glory except in humiliation.
There is no God except Him who became flesh.
There is no holiness except through sin.
There is no riches except poverty.
There is no light but the light in the dark.
There is no home but the homeless King.
There is no life but through death.
And all this by the initiative of God, with the lowly maiden’s assent.

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God bless you

The Sorrow of Christmas

Among my favourite Christmas songs are ‘I believe in Father Christmas’ by Greg Lake, and ‘Mad World’ by Gary Jules. If you don’t know them, they’re really, really sad songs. I like when they interrupt the merry, joyful, and jubilant songs.

Why?

Because they remind me that in the light of Christmas, the suffering of the world is absurd. Where is the peace for people of good will? If God became man, how do we allow such suffering? If God came to us as a babe in a manger, why is there such loneliness?

If God came down to earth, where is He when we need Him so much? And if we truly believe God was so close to us, how can we remain so far from each other, from those in need?

The feast of Christ the King reminds me that despite the madness of the world, victory is already won, on the cross and by our faith. But for now, by our faith (“the victory that has overcome the world” (1Jn 5:4)), we must continually bring Christ into the world, in expectation of and longing for his final return, when he will fill all in all. This is the great tension of Advent.

How do we bring Christ into the world? By abiding in him, that is, by loving as he loves. By receiving and sharing in his love. This is what Christmas demands.

We cannot believe that Christ is born, without bringing him to this suffering world. Nor can we be ready for him, except by being among the lowly with him.

I strongly encourage us to bring Christ this Advent. To open our hearts more than our wallets, and to join a suffering world. To lower ourselves with Jesus. To be a friend of outcasts.

Maranatha!

Christmas drawings

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Merry Christmas.

I drew these pictures before Christmas last year. It started as just drawing at the top of my work, and became a project of drawing, bit by bit, the whole nativity at the top of my work, whenever the work wasn’t so crucial. I got pretty serious about it as it went on, and was a bit scared I would ruin the final scene.
After a few, I realised that my drawings, as poor and simple as they are, were functioning as worship, meditation, and evangelism. I worshipped through them, as I depicted my great God, and the working of His great plan. To draw, and after each drawing, I meditated upon the scene. And they were a basic evangelization, as friends could see the story unfold, and I asked for their artistic input.
I think I like them far more than anyone else, because of the process.

God bless you, merry Christmas, and have a happy new year.

Sainsbury’s Christmas Advert

Hmmmmm… They are using a war that killed millions of people, in order to sell chocolate… They are using the terrible tragedy of the first world war, and the incredibly beautiful and profound Christmas day peace, to increase their own profits… They are trying to connect which rich people receive our money, with our deepest longings for peace and humanity… But they do it so well!

Is there nothing that can’t be capitalised? Is nothing sacred! Well, no, not really. This is capitalism: The religion without any dogmas.

If the production costs are high, the only way it will ever happen is if its profitable in some way. Beautiful and tragic films are also made for the monies. The best modern architecture is for offices (offices!).

G.K. Chesterton understood the matter quite perfectly when he wrote,

‘But the improvement of advertisements is the degradation of artists. It is their degradation for this clear and vital reason: that the artist will work, not only to please the rich, but only to increase their riches; which is a considerable step lower. After all, it was as a human being that a pope took pleasure in a cartoon of Raphael or a prince took pleasure in a statuette of Cellini. The prince paid for the statuette; but he did not expect the statuette to pay him.’
-from Utopia of Usurers

The Sainsbury’s advert is beautiful and profound. Even the chocolate bar at the end, reminds us that it’s not just a chocolate bar. The right use of the most base material goods is for them to be used as more than material goods. It testifies beautifully, that our lowest material goods are destined to embody the highest spiritual goods. But here lies the real perversion of this advert: the advert itself, is using the most profound spiritual goods as just a tool, at the service of the very lowest material good: profit.

It is both beautiful and ugly. Its beauty lies in its lowliness and horror being exalted by love. Its ugliness lies in its glory being chopped down and processed into another product at the service of mammon.

Reading to Jesus

Today I did a reading in front of three thousand people, as part of my University’s carol service. I was a bit more than understandably nervous. It’s the very opposite of my comfort zone (my discomfort zone?).

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(It was much darker, and much, much more full)

As I sat nervously before it started, the salvation army band playing, I took the opportunity to silently pray, offering the whole thing to God. I asked that it may be for us an encounter with Jesus. Then it struck me (he struck me) that I should read for Jesus himself! That he was with us (in our midst, but particularly at the very back of the Cathedral) listening. I was to read not as history, not as duty, not as story, but as speaking to my Love about my Love. And loving the three thousand overhearers because my Love lives them.

So I went up, silently offered it to God, and read. I was terrified. I spoke loudly, but I feel my heartbeat was still louder than my voice. I’m not sure if anyone noticed, but my leg began shaking a couple times. I shifted my weight slightly to stop it, and the other leg would start. But I read, and read with love, and I’m told I did well.

The Carol Service was absolutely beautiful. At many times I had to remember there were angels singing with us, in order to explain the beauty (always listen for the angels).

Happily I found afterwards, that my reading was in fact today’s Gospel reading for the feast of the Immaculate Conception. God is good.

 

God bless Us, Every One!

Christmas and Poverty

Christmas is all about poverty. All of the kindness, the gift-giving, the feasting, the joking, the singing, are all about poverty.

In remembrance of the birth of the God who made Himself poor, so that we might thereby be rich, we are humbled and exalted in a thousand different ways. We spend more than we supposedly should, because we are giving inspired by the Poor Babe in the manger. We sing and play together, because we are but children, hoping in a newborn King. We gather together, to offer ourselves for the Child’s sake to all the Child has himself come for, and to together be there for him. We feast, knowing that in this Poor Babe we are rich, and that our riches are in giving, not receiving. We welcome all, to join us in the love and jubilation of Christmas. Children hang their stockings, hoping for a random act of kindness from a great Saint. Parents imitate the great Saint’s good deeds. On Christmas day, we wear our paper crowns and are all royalty; all lowliness is crowned by the Son of God’s birth, and all royalty rightly bows down before the Poor Babe in a manger.

There is truly only one real threat to Christmas, and that is the idea of a rich Christmas: A Christmas of exchange, of socialising, of enjoying each other’s company, but without any lowliness, any poverty; the idea that Christmas is a set of products and mutually beneficial social activities. It is an affordable Christmas, and a profitable time of leisure. But it is not the feast of the God who was born a baby and laid in a manger; it is not the feast of the God of unlimited, unreasonable giving. When it doesn’t welcome, when it doesn’t lavish, when it doesn’t humbly offer each person to the others, when there is no graciousness, it ceases to be Christmas.

I wish it could be Christmas everyday

Honestly, it should be. I suppose we cannot feast everyday, but we can be as humble and generous and poor, and so as rich, every day. We should always imitate the lowliness and love of our God, as revealed in His incarnation and birth to a virgin. Of course, it’s not easy, but nothing radical ever is.

God bless you, and Merry Christmas!

P.S. I’m currently reading Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’ for the first time, and absolutely loving it. This thought came to me while I was reading it. So far, it’s genuinely amazing, and I already can’t recommend it enough.

P.P.S. I forgot to make the point, that therefore Christmas is best understood and celebrated by “the least of these, my brothers”.