The Right Revd Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham has released his Second Christmas message. A continuation on the theme from the first message, the second explores thoughts on popular culture surrounding Christmas. It brings in to sharp focus the World at the end of 2015, the refugee situation and of the very real story of Jesus’ birth.
CHRISTMAS MESSAGES 2015 – 2
Creative storytelling and production tends to mark many school nativities. Everyone must have a part so lots of extras tend to be thrown in. There might be many innkeepers, for example. Well why not? After all Joseph and Mary called at several and in community life there was probably a family running any inn. We have no idea how many shepherds there were, and there were three gifts but no mention that the wise men were only three, and they may well have had travelling companions. Where I get troubled is when Doctor Who, or a lobster, or Father Christmas get thrown in as well. There is a true story to be told and it should not be mixed up with fantasy. (I love Father Christmas in his proper place by the way.)
It is the true story which speaks powerfully to us, including children of all ages. But it is not a comfortable story. It has enforced travel by a political occupying power. It has birth in a difficult place. It has good news being given to the social outcast not the powerful. It has terrible tragedy and a refugee family.
It will be the enforced journey and the refugee life that followed that will fill my thoughts this Christmas. People become refugees for many reasons but those who are forced to do so by political and military might; those who in fear have to flee persecution and war deserve nothing but being treated well. None of them is Mary, Joseph and Jesus for that is the unique story of the Saviour of the World. But Jesus taught us that it is in them that we see and find him. It is in serving them that we serve him, and in failing to serve we fail to serve him.
May we all this Christmas find ways of expressing care to the refugees of the world. Make it a happy Christmas for them too.
[Bishop Paul has produced three Christmas message each exploring a slightly different approach to the Christmas story – all with strong resonance to the refugee situation this Christmas.]