‘Through us God spreads in every place the fragrance that comes from knowing
Christ.’ (2 Corinthians 2: 14).
Advent is the season when we prepare for the stunning revelation of God’s love for
humanity through the birth of Jesus. But this will have no impact on us unless we
allow God’s love to transform the way we see and to influence how we choose to
live. In other words, any celebration of Christmas that ignores the need for the birth
of Christ within us is little more than a form of self-indulgence! My hope is that our
primary goal at Christmas will be to respond in worship to the God who first loved
us. As we do so, we cannot avoid the reality of a world unchanged in many ways
from the one into which Jesus was born. It is still a world rife with power politics,
families fleeing as refugees, people being beaten and killed for their beliefs,
intimidation being used as a weapon to instil fear and exert control, and where the
sacredness of human life is too often ignored. Against such a background, we need
to reflect on the extent to which our lives reveal the divine spirit of love (cf. 1 John
4: 7–12), as it is through the attitudes and behaviour of those who are the Body of
Christ that the Incarnation overflows.
One of the enduring and appealing aspects of Anglican spirituality is the emphasis
on living ‘Christianly’—of accepting the challenge to identify with Christ in our way
of life. Dr Wilfred Grenfell once remarked with wonderful insight that our religious
life is written in our actions. This, as we know only too well, is easier said than done!
I have long appreciated the observation of a French philosopher (Michel de
Montaigne), “I have never seen a greater monster or miracle in the world than
myself.” Light may be shed on our motivation as we weigh up our reaction to
S. Paul’s description of a loving spirit (1 Corinthians 13). Are we patient? Are we
kind? Are we envious? Are we boastful? Are we arrogant and insensitive? Are we
ever rude or unpleasant? Do we insist on getting our own way? Are we irritable or
resentful? Do we store up grievances? Do we get satisfaction from gossip or hearing
about the problems of others? Is our love conditional or selective? Does our love
never falter? S. Paul’s opinion is that, without love, we lose sight of what really
matters, so even our finest achievements are worthless. Thomas Merton’s words
provide some comfort: ‘There is no spiritual life without persistent struggle and
interior conflict.’ However, this Christmas there may be more for us to disentangle
than just the wiring for the lights on the tree!
‘Be careful how you live your lives; they are the only Gospel most people will ever
read.’ (Dom Helder Camara).
Welcome Home. Today we warmly welcome Fr Andrew and Kathryn as they
return from leave to our S. Michael and All Angels community. We look forward
with a sense of anticipation to all that they have to share from their time away.
Yours in Christ,
Canon Craufurd Murray