The Revd Mark’s thoughts for Christmas

As I write I am reflecting on the community meeting that I just chaired. One of the questions that was raised was whether I was an appropriate person to chair the meeting given that I had expressed a clear view about the issue under discussion. Good question. Indeed the question of the local church’s role in the midst of such a conversation is one worth reflecting on. But it’s Christmas, surely we should be talking about stables and mangers? Well precisely.

God is for all people. That’s clear throughout the Bible. God has a particular closeness to the ancient kingdoms of Israel and Judah, but that closeness is for the benefit of all humanity. There is no partiality with God. And yet in the Incarnation, God comes and takes a particular stand alongside the poor and dispossessed. The God of rich and poor nonetheless is made known and present first and foremost among the outcast. Does that mean the wealthy can just go hang? The song of Mary at the angelic announcement of her pregnancy comes close to saying so:

He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,

and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things,

and sent the rich away empty. (Luke 1:52-53)

And yet in the story of Jesus’s encounter with a rich young man, looking for guidance, we read that:

Jesus, looking at him, loved him (Mark 10:21)

God’s love in Christ is for all, and yet at the same time God takes a stand with the poor. So the local church, bearing the name of Christ, is for all the people of our community too. Yet our faith also inspires us to take a stand with those who do not have the riches that we do, whether that be financial riches, or the more important wealth of secure and loving homes and families. We challenge ourselves and others to be welcoming and open-handed, risking the conflict that may ensue.

It’s too easy and simplistic of course, to view ourselves as on the side of the angels and so to run the danger of demonising those who take a different view. We could always be wrong. But we do our best to discern the Christian response and to summon up our courage to inhabit it. We continue to love those who take a different view.

This Christmas, whatever conflict you face in your family, in your workplace, among your friends or in the church, I pray that you will be inspired by God’s coming to us to be ready to be clear about where you stand and why, but at the same time to love those who don’t agree.