December 2019 - Rector’s Ramblings

‘He became what we are in order that we might become what he is’.

Christmas is fast approaching, as I write, and there are many ways of engaging with it.   Joy, love and peace, are three of these: and each to be valued immensely in what we make of the season.

Joy, because it is very good that we celebrate with one another.  Joy may catch our hearts with the birth of Jesus: there is a delightful simplicity about our Crib Service on Christmas Eve; and the core of that celebration is unashamed delight at the simple birth of a child.  Jesus is allowed by our faith and our culture to be a child for all, that day, and joy shall flow in many a heart in Westbourne and beyond.

Love, because it is equally excellent that we reach out to one another in this season.  Poetically, we might say, God has reached out to us.   It is for us to catch the habit  - return the compliment, if you like.   Presents, for all their pitfalls by way of excess, are nonetheless the very sweetest expression of this.  So, too, is hospitality, and making space for others more generally, in our lives.    Christmas becomes a time to embrace, and not to push aside.

And Peace, because it is so needed, and so manifestly the heart of our devotions at Christmastime.   Carols pick up the theme: ‘how still we see thee lie’ (of Bethlehem); ‘silent night .. all is calm, all is bright’; ‘hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace’ (of Jesus).    Yes, there is sentimentality in the air; but the priority of Peace in our world should not be overlooked.  And Christmas is the time above all to lay hold of that peace, commitedly and imaginatively.   It is the time, as I have written above, to love, to embrace; to forgive, and greet, and believe in one another’s worth and possibility.  To take risks.  It is a time to be a friend to the world; and not to cherish our anger and dislike.

Three gifts, as those of the Christmas Kings.  Three gifts, born of the Christ-child.

All this, indeed, touches on his invitation to us.  To be changed.  To take on his presence, as our present.   To allow the wondrous story to take root in our own lives.

That ‘joy’, ‘love’ and ‘peace’ be more than simply words upon glass baubles. 

Long ago, there lived a man called Athanasius.  His likeness is shown above, and makes for a pleasant alternative to Father Christmas.   Athanasius coined the phrase you read at the top of this article: ‘He became what we are in order that we might become what he is’.

These words refer to the birth of Jesus; and the rich possibilities that this venture opens up in you and me.

The words are highly theological, of course, as you might expect from an ancient Father of the Church; but they are pointing to a simpler truth.  That your desire and mine be for Christmas to come not just as a yearly event, a passing visitor; but that it come eternally in us.    And that we be ‘Christ-èd’, by this little child: he, alive in us; that we might live to him … alive to all God’s goodness.

Pray then for those around you, and your selves; for our Parish and our wider World; at Christmas .. and in the year that lies ahead…   That joy, love and peace be both among us and within us.   Evermore.  Amen.

Andrew Doye, Rector


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