Bishop's letter

Cry of a tiny babe

Since I was ordained I have managed every Christmas to quote from a Bruce Cockburn song. ‘Like a stone on the surface of a still river, driving the ripples on forever, redemption rips through the surface of time in the cry of a tiny babe.’

It sums up Christmas, doesn’t it? And it opens up to our imagination the infinite wonder of God coming among us as one of us.

Advent is the season that should hold us back from too quick a celebration. As we retell the expectation of God’s coming during those four slow weeks, we clearly find it difficult to resist the pressure of the carols and cultural ‘christmasness’ that seeks instant gratification and bids us short-cut the build up. But, if we allow our imagination the space to explore the mystery of the Incarnation, we will reach Christmas at the right time and with a new depth of celebration.

Christmas begins with a baby. But, the baby grew up. So, Christmas points us to three encouragements:

Loving the world is what compels God to expose himself to all the realities of mortal life as we experience it. He empties himself out of love.

Living among us removes any excuse we might have to think of God as disinterested in the real world. Matter matters to God. So, we cannot escape the call to live in the world as God did in Jesus of Nazareth.

Learning how to do this is a lifetime challenge. The baby of Bethlehem is easier to handle than the man who calls religious authorities ‘a brood of vipers’ or overturns the tables in the temple.

And we Christians need to re-tell the Christmas story with humility, recognising that we will never exhaust the depths of God’s love or our need for redemption.

Christmas begins with a baby. But, it doesn’t end with the baby.

May our celebrations this year be filled with wonder.


Bishop of Leeds


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