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Thank God It's Christmas

Have you noticed that Christmas is coming? Of course you have.
I bet that any of you could recite pretty accurately the Christmas story: Mary visited by an angel; a census and a journey to Bethlehem; no room at the inn; a baby born in a stable and placed in a trough that animals eat from; shepherds visited by an angel and making their way to Bethlehem to pay homage to the baby; wise men following a star to the stable and giving the baby strange gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

And that’s the problem. We’ve heard the story so many times that it’s very easy for it to have no impact on us any more. Maybe as far as you’re concerned, that’s fine; as long as you get your presents and the nice food, that’s all that matters.

But maybe we should be troubled by this possibility.
How can we make this 2000- year old story alive in our hearts? One way, I think, is to think and to ask ourselves questions about the protagonists in the story.

How did Mary feel when the angel told her that she, a virgin, would become pregnant by a miracle and give birth to the son of God? The hugeness of that situation is mind-blowing. Terrified though she was, this young woman said “yes” – the most important “yes” in the history of the world – and changed the world forever.

How did Joseph feel when he learnt that his wife, whom he thought was a virgin, was pregnant?
Why did God choose to make the first people to learn of the birth of Our Lord poor, scruffy, uneducated shepherds - those on the margins of society, looked down on by “respectable” people in the towns?

But biggest of all, why did God choose to come into the world in the form of a helpless, vulnerable human baby?
Maybe yours can, but my imagination struggles to conceive such a thing.


Sometimes, when we struggle with ideas, art can help us to grasp the truth. The beautiful music we hear sung in church, for example. Poetry too can do this.

Here are some lines from the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, who was also a Catholic priest:

Moonless darkness stands between.
Past, the Past, no more be seen!

But the Bethlehem-star may lead me
To the sight of Him who freed me
From the self that I have been. 

To the sight of Him who freed me
From the self that I have been.

Do you see? If God can become a helpless baby, a baby which will become a man, die and rise from the dead, I too can change. Even I, in all my inadequateness and sinfulness, can change into something a bit better, and put my past behind me.

In amongst all the excitement and busyness of Christmas – and for some of you, revision – please do try to find a few moments to think about these things, and maybe to thank Our Lord for coming into the world to change me and to change you.

I hope you all have a wonderful, safe and joyous Christmas.