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.


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.


Christmas drawings















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?).


(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”.

St. Ignatius of Antioch on Christmas

‘Let my spirit be counted as nothing for the sake of the cross, which is a stumbling-block to those that do not believe, but to us salvation and life eternal. “Where is the wise man? where the disputer?” Where is the boasting of those who are styled prudent? For our God, Jesus Christ, was, according to the appointment of God, conceived in the womb by Mary, of the seed of David, but by the Holy Ghost. He was born and baptized, that by His passion He might purify the water.

‘Now the virginity of Mary was hidden from the prince of this world, as was also her offspring, and the death of the Lord; three mysteries of renown, which were wrought in silence by God. How, then, was He manifested to the world? A star shone forth in heaven above all the other stars, the light of Which was inexpressible, while its novelty struck men with astonishment. And all the rest of the stars, with the sun and moon, formed a chorus to this star, and its light was exceedingly great above them all. And there was agitation felt as to whence this new spectacle came, so unlike to everything else [in the heavens]. Hence every kind of magic was destroyed, and every bond of wickedness disappeared; ignorance was removed, and the old kingdom abolished, God Himself being manifested in human form for the renewal of eternal life. And now that took a beginning which had been prepared by God. Henceforth all things were in a state of tumult, because He meditated the abolition of death.’

[ Taken from St. Ignatius’ letter to the Ephesians, Chapter 18 to 19. Here’s the whole letter]

St. Ignatius of Antioch lived from 35-107 AD, was bishop of Antioch, and a student of St. John the Apostle. He was martyred in 107AD.

Merry Christmas and God bless you.

Christmas juxtaposition

The King of kings lay in a manger, because there was no room in the inns, surrounded by shepherds, wise men, and barn animals. A baby, with gifts of frankincense, myrrh, and gold. The one who called himself ‘the life’ victim of an attempted murder. The Prince of Peace, being greeted with immediate persecution and fear. Oh, and a virgin mother.
This baby grew up to say,

‘and whoever of you may will to become first, he shall be servant of all’
Mark 10:44

‘If any doth will to be first, he shall be last of all, and minister of all.’
Mark 9:35

‘but I—I say to you, Love your enemies’
Matthew 5:44

‘whoever shall exalt himself shall be humbled, and whoever shall humble himself shall be exalted.’
Matthew 23:12

‘If any one doth come unto me, and doth not hate his own father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brothers, and sisters, and yet even his own life, he is not able to be my disciple’
Luke 14:26

‘Ye may not suppose that I came to put peace on the earth; I did not come to put peace, but a sword’
Matthew 10:32

‘He who found his life shall lose it, and he who lost his life for my sake shall find it.’
Matthew 10:39

And he went on to die, so that we may have life, and rose again, as the firstfruit of the dead. He was righteous, and died for sinners.
God’s a poet, and all creation is His poem.

God bless you.

Two royal babies

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (William and Kate) are going to have a baby. Now, I don’t hate babies, or hate babies based on their family history, or even hate the royal family. But I fear how this child will be used.
From the moment of birth, they will be political. They will be the future King or Queen, and so will be watched, used as a symbol for nationalism, and trained to think and behave a certain way. And they have no choice in this.
But, a baby is always a blessing. I just do not want it to be celebrated for its murderous family history or its future parasitic job (if you can call it a job).
And, more hopefully, a child could bring great change. By some miracle, they could be left without political brainwashing in some area, or it could be overcome on some area, and they could use their position to speak some unacceptable truth. We should pray for this child.

It seems to me, Britain’s constitutional monarchy is the perfect system for preventing change. On the one side, a hollow monarchy provides the perfect grounds for state worship and sentimental attachment to the past, through big, expensive, and shiny things for us to view from a safe distance. On the other hand, hollow elections give the slight illusion of power to make changes.

About two thousand and fifteen years ago (I can’t remember the exact estimates of the year) my King was born in Bethlehem. He lowered himself to us, and died for us to have life.
There was no room for him in the inns. He lay in a manger, in the midst of the animals. He was visited by shepherds and mages from the east.
His life was never comfortable, always strange, always wonderful. The contrast between him and the English royalty is incredible.
He’s a whole different kind of Royalty.
(His name is Jesus)

God bless you.