Expressing faith at Christmas

Many of you may have read stories in the national media recently, quoting Bishop Rachel's opinions about religious programming over the Christmas period. You may be interested to read the full version of her article below.

Bishop Rachel writes:  "There’s been a lot of talk recently about people being offended by expressions of religious faith. And now it appears the BBC have scheduled only six hours of new religious broadcasting on the TV over the Christmas week. If true I find that offensive. Presumably the decision was taken in order to reduce the possibility of offending people with too much God stuff over the holiday. After all, Christmas is a day for the family when we will all be wearing jolly Christmas sweaters, sat around large tables with overflowing plates of food, pulling crackers with smiles on our faces. There will be the harmonious gathering around the log fire whilst framed by the frosted panes will be a picture perfect snow scene complete with snow man. We will all be laughing. Smiles are obligatory.

"…Well, that’s the image portrayed by so much Christmas advertising and we don’t want all that upset by Jesus intruding on our lives.

"The world is a messy place and we’ve had a bucket load of fear and anxiety this year, not to mention all that water crashing through flood defences. We want to escape from the turbulence and forget our fears. We want to be entertained with all that is “other”: The fun and fantasy of the Christmas pantomime or the sci-fi thrill of The Force Awakens. We want to participate in the feel-good factor of being delivered from evil and seeing good triumph.  And by the way, we certainly don’t want one minute of the Lord’s Prayer preceding all that. Please keep religion out of our Christmas. We don’t want to be offended.

"I certainly agree that the story of God coming to earth is pretty offensive, particularly if you are on the side of fear not love. And I won’t begin to pretend that the message of Christmas isn’t intrusive. It’s deeply personal.

"This tiny vulnerable baby lying in the mess of a feeding trough in a Middle Eastern animal shed two thousand years ago, is God come among us in human flesh. In Jesus, God knows what it’s like to be one of us.  Knows intimately what it’s like to feel pain, sorrow, joy and hope. Through that baby, who grew up to be an adult like you and me, God knows all our weaknesses, understands all our fears and rage.  And yet God never deserts us. God is with us, for us, loves us and knows us by name.

"If you want to deny your uniqueness, be just another person in the cinema, a nameless shopper in the supermarket, or just another face in the Christmas crowd, then I can see that you’d want to steer clear from the Christmas story. It’s pretty intrusive.

"But if you want some Good News then be assured that Christmas is all that – for it’s about good triumphing over evil. It’s about the light being stronger than the darkness and hope being stronger than despair. This is about life stronger than death, but if you’re not on the side of the angels then I admit that’s pretty offensive."

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