Tuesday, December 24, 2013

“Christmas means that, through Jesus, God shows unconditionally that he loves us"

It is Christmas Eve, and the Archbishops of Canterbury and York are busy spreading the joy and peace of Christmas through the Church of England's #Christmasmeans social media campaign.

Congregations and clergy in all of the church's 12,000 parishes are being encouraged today and tomorrow to get out their mobile devices and complete the sentence: "Christmas means..."

Last year the CofE’s nifty and breviloquent Christmas hashtag #christmasstartswithchrist was seen by more than 9 million people in 24 hours. If it had been a little more succinct it may have been easier to spread. If the gospel of the risen Christ was foolishness to the Greeks (1Cor 1:23), a Twitter hashtag that takes up 25 units of precious homily space is utterly flapdoodle.

If Blogger is the new pulpit, Instagram is the stained glass window, Twitter is the Collect and Spotify the choir. The virtual church is growing and thriving: His Grace's cyber-cathedral reaches more parishioners every day than any of those made of stone: communion is virtual, but the leadership is sound and the fellowship is real.

In his #Christmasmeans message, His (present) Grace Archbishop Justin Welby says: “Christmas means that, through Jesus, God shows unconditionally that he loves us. I pray that he gives you a very blessed Christmas.”

For His (former) Grace, "Christmas means different things to different people, and Jesus is a rapidly-diminishing part of the festival. The Establishment is becoming increasingly secular under the guise of neutrality, and the public sphere is becoming intolerant of those who walk in spirit and in truth. But our churches are never more full than they at Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, so don't cuss the burgeoning congregation for being once-a-year 'cultural Christians' or for their lack of regular communion because, quite frankly, there's not a lot worth getting out of bed for on a Sunday morning that can't be read in the pages of The Guardian or gleaned from Songs of Praise, except, of course, the 'Jesus' bit.

For many millions of Christians, Christmas still means the birth of Christ. And the life and death of Christ is still the way of salvation. And that salvation is hoped for and longed for - especially at the end. If postmodern believers in a post-Christian culture can find a bit of Jesus in tinsel and fairy lights, then we must appreciate their worship of the Son of God; encourage them to see beyond the kings and shepherds; help them to appreciate God's relationship to humanity; and nurture them beyond the idols of gold, silver and television.

Alternatively, you could play the Prodigal's older brother and self-righteously carp on about their spiritual ignorance and their woeful lack of worthiness to approach the altar.

Christmas happens in the heart.

Christmas means an encounter with wonder.

Christmas means a glimpse of joy and a taste of peace.

Christmas means close family, true friends, and the essential love of the Christ-child.

What does Christmas mean to you?


Blogger Cressida de Nova said...

Christmas is all those things that you mentioned Y G. At no other time of the year is there a feeling of anticipation and joy. People show generosity towards each other,attend Midnight Mass,join a group in serving Christmas lunch to the needy; things they normally do not do at any other time of the year to celebrate Christmas (Christ's birth.)

For me it is Christmas trees and tinsel,Midnight Mass,Christmas Eve family dinner and being nicer than I normally am to everyone.

I wish HG and everyone here a Happy and Holy Christmas and thank HG for providing this venue for individuals to air dissenting religious views.Christmas also gives me some hope that Christianity will survive somehow.
I would also like to give a special thanks to Blue Dog for impersonating a St Bernard by attempting to rescue me when I was buried in the snow.

24 December 2013 at 01:08  
Blogger Mike Stallard said...

Good of the Archbishop to remember us out here! Well Done!

PS A teeny bit of a smile and a hint of God's love might go down well, don't you think? The video looks rather like a bank manager telling you your credit rating has reached the floor.

24 December 2013 at 07:06  
Blogger The Explorer said...

A blessed Christmas to you, Cressida.

24 December 2013 at 07:13  
Blogger Martin said...

Indeed, he doesn't seem too happy about it. Perhaps it might be the appalling acoustics of the recording.

But surely you cannot speak of Christmas without mentioning why it was necessary for God to become Man, the appalling rebellion of mankind, and the ultimate end of the Saviours earthly love.

24 December 2013 at 07:47  
Blogger grumpyoldcl said...

Christmas is a reminder that God is not distant but became one of us and lived amongst us

24 December 2013 at 08:24  
Blogger grumpyoldcl said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

24 December 2013 at 08:24  
Blogger David Hussell said...

Emmanuel . Christ is with us. He is truly sacred.

It is Christmas Eve. So soon we celebrate the greatest event in the story of the world. He is the hinge around which everything turns. He is the light that can never be extinguished, ever. In Him we trust.

I wish His Grace, Cranmer who graciously creates this place for us to meet, a very Happy Christmas, and also to all who come here often, or occasionally, a very Happy Christmas.

Blessed be God for Ever. Amen.

24 December 2013 at 08:59  
Blogger grumpyoldcl said...

When I send a comment from my mobile phone it appears to send it twice - hence the deletion. Sorry about that.

As Elvis Presley once said "Merry Christmas everybody"

24 December 2013 at 09:26  
Blogger Irene's Daughter said...

Christmas is a time to gaze in awe at the wonderous truth that Almighty God, who created the universe and holds it in the palm of His hand, entered His own creation as a human being.

It is a time to remember that our God chose to enter a woman's womb as a few tiny cells, grow in her as a foetus and then come into our world as a boy child in Bethlehem just so that He could die painfully on a cross.

Christmas reminds us of that most perfect sacrificial offering made so that people like us can have a future. That we can now have the certain hope of an eternal life lived in His glorious presence. That we can be a part of His bride, His true and faithful Church.

Christmas is a time to gaze in wonder, not at a baby but at the most awesome happening that has occured on our world since the act of creation itself. It is a time to give thanks to the living God for the most wonderful and precious gift that He has given to us. Jesus Emmanuel. Jesus who is God with us.

So give thanks right now.

24 December 2013 at 10:19  
Blogger Len said...

Jesus came into this World to atone for our sins and to mediate between fallen man and a Holy God.
It is through Jesus Christ that God is able to show His Love for his Creation and His plan for the redemption of mankind which He initiated through Jesus Christ. I would like to thank His Grace (Cranmer)for all his thought provoking articles through the year and to wish a blessed Christ mas to all contributors to H G`s esteemed blog.

Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.Amen.

24 December 2013 at 11:18  
Blogger grumpyoldcl said...

It's off-topic but what can one do?

I've read the Prime Minster's Christmas message.

he is clearly completely unaware that the english phrase "Actions speak louder than words" comes from the Authorised version of the Bible as do many other english phrases showing how much we owe to our Christian roots.

In his case, whilst as Christians we try to bring people to faith he has done more to wilfully marginalise the Christian faith than any other Prime Minister and, as Christians, we are strongly told in the Bible to know people by their actions.

Actions speak louder than words.

24 December 2013 at 12:11  
Blogger Happy Jack said...

Happy Jack loves the song 'Silent Night' and says the beautiful tune and words capture what Christmas means.

Jack wishes you a Holy and Blessed Christmas Your Grace and to all those who visit here.

24 December 2013 at 12:16  
Blogger James said...

"On Christmas Day you can't get sore
your fellow man you must adore;
there's always time to rob him more
the other three hundred and sixty four..."
(Tom Lehrer)

24 December 2013 at 12:48  
Blogger David Hussell said...


Christmas Greetings !

This blog is an education in itself, so could you please direct me to where in the AV it says, "Actions speak louder than words", as I am interested.

24 December 2013 at 13:11  
Blogger Happy Jack said...

James, Happy Jack chuckled at that rhyme and says it should be printed, framed and placed in the Houses of Parliament.

24 December 2013 at 13:25  
Blogger Uncle Brian said...

Happy Christmas, everyone!

24 December 2013 at 14:10  
Blogger grumpyoldcl said...

It's the colloquialism arising out of Matthew 7:16 and Matthew 7:20
"...y their fruits ye shall know them."

24 December 2013 at 14:19  
Blogger John Thomas said...

"If postmodern believers in a post-Christian culture can find a bit of Jesus in tinsel and fairy lights, then we must appreciate their worship of the Son of God; encourage them to see beyond ..." - yes indeed, YG, I couldn't agree more. But we must NOT - as some would urge - encourage the view that those who appreciate the aesthetic/ethical message of the tinsel, fairy lights, etc. version of Christmas, have the whole of the Christian faith. Yes, we must acknowledge that there is more - even if that risks us saying that we know more, ie. know better.

24 December 2013 at 14:21  
Blogger William Lewis said...

Happy Christmas to everyone here. May the peace and love of our Lord be with you all as we celebrate His birth into this world. Thanks also to HG for his thoughtful, erudite and edifying contributions to the discourse of our times; appreciated by believers and unbelievers both.

24 December 2013 at 14:49  
Blogger David B said...

Seriously one the things Christmas means to me is the question of what to wish for the not inconsiderable number of Christians here who I have grown to feel respect and affection for, despite our metaphysical differences.

Coming from a pretty staunch atheist, and one who finds some varieties of Christianity not a net good fro mankind, 'Merry Christmas' sort of feels wrong, so prefer 'Seasons Greetings' - with the advantage the recipient can interpret this as they wish.

Anyway, Seasons Greetings to you all.

This year it has also meant a couple of days leave from hospital - just home to wifi and proper keyboard instead of phone and poor mobile internet signal.


24 December 2013 at 14:54  
Blogger Len said...

David B, I hope and pray that your recovery is speedy...all the best from a former atheist.... len.

24 December 2013 at 16:13  
Blogger The Explorer said...

David B:

Seasons greetings to you.

24 December 2013 at 16:17  
Blogger David Hussell said...


Thank you. I see the connection. It's in the idea, if not the words.

I half expected you to refer me to James's letter which has this sort of emphasis, unusually.

Happy Christmas !

24 December 2013 at 16:34  
Blogger William Lewis said...

David B

It's not much to hang your hat on, but Seasons greeting to you too.

I also hope and pray for your comfort and recovery.


24 December 2013 at 16:37  
Blogger Albert said...

Merry Christmas Dr C and everyone.

24 December 2013 at 16:40  
Blogger David Hussell said...


You could have knocked me down with a feather, as they used to say. You, a former atheist, amazing ! But perhaps I shouldn't be amazed, as numbers of people, including atheists, do change their beliefs, including relatively late in life.

Gorby, or Gorbarchov (spelling?), leader of the Russian "Glasnost", converted from atheism to Russian Orthodoxy in his 70's, so there's a useless snippet of information.

Len, Happy Christmas !

24 December 2013 at 16:43  
Blogger David Hussell said...

John Thomas,

I agree. If consumerist, post-modern people are for now only able to hang about the edges of Christmas, then I say, welcome. That includes those who turn up to church services for maybe just the Carol Service or on Christmas eve or day. The hope is that they may, when things are right for them on their personal journey of life, feel the need for a deeper conversation with God.
But as you say you must never cease pointing to the greater truths that are available for them to embrace. Then maybe one day, they will accept God's generous offer of salvation through faith, having accepted their personal culpability, with the rest of us.

24 December 2013 at 16:53  
Blogger Len said...

Happy Christmas David H,

I think God can convert anyone if they are honestly seeking the Truth about Him.
I have gone full circle (so to speak) started off as a 'churchgoer' more to please my Mother as anything else then reasoned that God could not possibly exist and became an atheist.
Then later in life seeking spiritual truth(had a few 'near misses' with the 'new age' movement) and eventually found the True God of the Bible and have never looked back.
I now know God as a reality not an ideal or a theology but as a living Person.
Looking back I can see that God was always there waiting for me to accept Him but me being the person that I was could not recognise Him.
There comes a time when we have a chance to meet with God and I suppose that time came later for me.
I can see the atheist point of view having been there myself but I also know that God exists and will meet with those who seek him in truth and humility.

24 December 2013 at 17:27  
Blogger Marie1797 said...

Thinking about what life might have been like if Jesus hadn't come into the world and given us Christianity, we would have been stuck in some sort of paganism. Or all been Islamic and stuck in the seventh century. So we must all be grateful to Jesus.

24 December 2013 at 19:00  
Blogger Sister Tiberia said...

To me, this always said it best - the poet UA Fanthorpe writes:


This was the moment when Before
Turned into After, and the future’s
Uninvented timekeepers presented arms.
This was the moment when nothing
Happened. Only dull peace
Sprawled boringly over the earth.
This was the moment when even energetic Romans
Could find nothing better to do
Than counting heads in remote provinces.
And this was the moment
When a few farm workers and three
Members of an obscure Persian sect
Walked haphazard by starlight straight
Into the kingdom of heaven.

And to all my fellow travellers stumbling haphazard by starlight towards the Christ Child this year, whether you yet know your destination or not - take care, God bless you, and Merry Christmas.

24 December 2013 at 19:39  
Blogger bluedog said...

Thank you, Cressida @ 01.08. Don't think the hound had much to do with your return, but it is good to see you posting again. You make this communicant laugh, if a hound can do so. A very Happy Christmas to you and your loved ones.

The same to HG to all other communicants.

24 December 2013 at 20:11  
Blogger David Hussell said...


Thank you for that.

My story is not hugely different. I was brought up as a Low Church Anglican, Sunday School and so on. As a young teenager I was serious about faith, and was confirmed with genuine sincerity. But then in my late teens other things became more interesting, as they do with young men, and I just drifted away, ever so slowly and unselfconsciously. Then seriously hard work, commitment to a career and marriage took my focus. But I always believed in God and called myself a Christian and an Anglican, in a very half hearted sort of way.

In my late 40s, having exceeded my career and financial goals, I began to ask myself what was the deeper meaning and purpose of life. Ever so slowly I found myself drawn to recognize God's handiwork, creation, in landscapes, rivers and people. Reopening a childhood Bible the power and truth of God's word tumbled out towards me. I started attending church services, and it went onwards from there. It's been a good road but, learning to control ones naturally selfish ego is always challenging.
So yes, I too, like you, reckon that God had been waiting for me all along to return, and now I enjoy a growing knowledge of him, as a constant, living presence. I agree that someone seeking God's truth will find it, but the price that many refuse to pay is accepting his greatness and wisdom, and learning to follow that, not just ourselves.

24 December 2013 at 21:31  
Blogger Mrs Proudie of Barchester said...

Goodness! Are there red stars on His Grace's Christmas tree? The arm of the Frankfurt School has grown long indeed... (chortle)

24 December 2013 at 22:50  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

Merry Christmas to you too Cranmer and everyone else.

We should never be afraid to let sinners draw near to Jesus. He isn't tainted by sin; He destroys it. May the King of Kings reign in our hearts.

25 December 2013 at 00:52  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

25 December 2013 at 00:52  
Blogger Rambling Steve Appleseed said...

At relatives away from home attended morning service Christmas day at a local CofE and was delighted and moved by the use of a brilliant shoort film in stop-go animation telling the Bible narrative from creation to Bethlehem. Given the technology exists and is essentially neutral, we must embrace it.

Good point about looking down on the once a year brigade. If its only once a year, up to us to make it count.

Happy Christmas and a bright New Year, knowing that in the Lord our labour is not in vain.

PS very nice Christmas meditation up at Peter Hitchens' blog.

25 December 2013 at 23:18  
Blogger Irish Catholic said...

Just discovered this blog. Intelligent and thoughtful.

26 December 2013 at 07:58  
Blogger Irish Catholic said...

As today is St Stephen's Day, please spare a thought and pray for all the Christians enduring persecution, torture and imprisonment in Syria, Pakistan and other lands. No doubt, by nightfall, there will be new martyrs for our faith

26 December 2013 at 08:20  
Blogger Cressida de Nova said...

Praying is not enough. Christians of the free world must pressure their leaders into rescuing these people.We cannot stand by idly and watch them being massacred. They need help!

26 December 2013 at 11:27  

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