Rector’s Christmas Message
Carols are one of the heart-lifting aspects of Christmas time. At least, I find them so. We sing along at
‘carols by candlelight’ and at the Christmas religious services. We hear them piped through shopping
malls and supermarkets. We often seem to know most of the words by heart. Silent Night, O Come All
Ye Faithful, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, Angels We have Heard on High, O Little Town of Bethlehem,
Away in a Manager, The Little Drummer Boy. It’s a long list. Old favourites.
Some of the carols are a little quaint and written primarily for children. Others are schmaltzy and
shallow, and get themselves mixed up with the commercialisation and fake imagery of the season.
Many, though, contain some quite profound meaning, and strikingly sound theology. Take Joy to the
World for example.
You know the lyrics. It begins with ‘Joy to the world, the Lord has come. Let earth receive her king,
Let every heart prepare him room, and heav’n and nature sing …’
Let’s pause on that phrase ‘let every heart prepare him room’. Every heart a ‘manger’ for Christ to
come to life. That’s quite an extraordinary concept: God finding life in me, in my time and place, in
my daily living, my family, my work, my relationships, my life. Both ‘heaven and nature’ in me, in us,
here and now, singing.
The great medieval philosopher and theologian, Meister Eckhart, offered a simple but profound
comment that could help us appreciate the challenging meaning of Christmas: ‘What good is it,’ he
wrote, ‘that Christ was born a thousand years ago in Bethlehem, if he is not born today in our own
time?’ Eight centuries earlier, Saint Augustine wrote something quite similar: ‘What benefit is it to me
that this birth takes place in eternity if it does not take place in me?’
Christmas may be a special time for children, a magical time for them. That’s good and wonderful, but
let us not mistake Christmas for some nursery fable. The Scriptures were written for adults. The whole
Christmas thing is, at its core, something for a wise mind and deep heart to seek to grasp: Christ alive
in my innermost, deepest self.
Another academic year has run its course at Aquinas. And a full year it was. During the recent Advent
Service for our staff team, we looked at a series of images of the past year with a song playing in the
background. As pictures of the students came up one after the other – at formal functions, in chapel,
at their studies, at sports, at some of their slightly madcap social events – we hauntingly heard the
words of Bernadette Farrell’s song God Beyond All Names with phrases such as ‘all around us we have
known you’, ‘you have shaken with our laughter, you have trembled with our tears’, and ‘we are
bringing you to birth’.
Yes, indeed, all around us this year, we have seen God-life coming to birth. We have witnessed it as
individual students have grown in wisdom, in understanding, in compassion, in tolerance, in resilience,
in faith, in sensitivity, in good judgement, in maturity. This is heaven come to earth. This is Christ
coming to birth.
Let us enter this Christmas season with a spirit of gratitude and a sense of promise. While there may
be parts of our lives and our world that are quite painful, unjust or disheartening, there is so much for
which to give thanks. That’s the God-stuff in our lives; we can recognise because it brings us joy, and
peace, and hope. May we play our part in bringing more of this God-life to birth!
A peaceful and joyful Christmas to all!