Together this Christmas
Whatever your views on politics, I’m sure you would agree that a divided society cannot be a happy society; and ours has been sadly divided in recent years. Indeed, politicians themselves recognise that. They often talk about ‘bringing the country together’, although their plans to do so can, sadly, divide as much as they unite.
But in the light of such divisions, my theme for this Christmas season is unity.
Christmas is a time of coming together: families travel long distances so they can celebrate as one. The desire to be with those closest to us also explains why it can be such a difficult time for some. That’s why I’m delighted to see so many initiatives in Cornwall that draw isolated people together.
For example, I recently visited a Cornish homelessness action group who provide a cooked breakfast to people 363 days of the year. Why not 365 days? Because on Christmas Day and Boxing Day they cook lunch – so people don’t have to be alone at Christmas.
Unity is a very fitting theme for Christmas. One of our Anglican prayers often used at Midnight Mass says: ‘On this holy night, heaven is come down to earth and earth is raised to heaven.’ The birth of Jesus, who is both God and man, creates a touching place where heaven and earth meet, in unity. And in Jesus, God invites us to enter into a relationship, into union, with him.
But we can’t stop there. God steps towards us in the baby of Bethlehem to draw us into union with him. And that also puts the onus on us to step towards others, and into unity with them.
That can be a hard call. Jesus’ command to love our neighbour didn’t come with a caveat that we should love them just as long as we approve of them, or as long as they aren’t from a different part of the world, or look somehow different to us, or because they don’t share our faith, or as long as our views on Brexit don’t clash. It’s easy to be united with those you are like, but much harder to be at one with those who are very different.
And that is the challenge to which we have to respond: in our own small corner of the world, to be peacemakers and not warmongers. In the times in which we live, that’s an urgent challenge. Let’s rise to it – together.
I wish you all, a joyful, peaceful and unified Christmas.