Sunday, 7 December 2014

John Seaford on Christmas

Here is a piece by John Seaford, Dean of Jersey, in 1996 from “The Pilot”. I’m not sure I entirely agree with it. During his time, John Seaford, though clearly very intelligent, often had a reputation as a “gloomy Dean”, and there’s a touch of that here when he considers a particular Church advertisement. Mind you, that particular advertisement does seem to have a touch of brash American evangelist rather than English restraint.

But I do like what he says about “ivory towers”!

John Seaford on Christmas
I know I have said it before, but one of the good things about Jersey is that secularism is not so advanced here as it is in the UK. The significance of Christmas is that, since that critical moment in Bethlehem nearly two thousand years ago, it is impossible to argue that religion is a fringe activity. No longer can we say that some aspect of creation and everyday life is irrelevant to the Kingdom of God and his elsewhere. eternal purpose. In Jersey, Church and community are not so divided as they are

The Christmas message is not that God is somehow present in all things, a holy gloss on life, but that all history, the story of mankind, is divinely significant. The fact that many people deny this, does not invalidate it. The fact that some people trivialise it, does not detract from it. The fact that some people ridicule it, is a cause for concern. Now, God does not need us to defend him, any more than he needed an army of angels to protect him, but there comes it time when the Church should put out positive statements to counteract any damage that may be done, intentionally or unintentionally.

That, I think, was the problem with the notorious Christmas poster produced by the Churches Advertising Network for this year, which you will probably not see in Jersey: indeed, you may not see it anywhere. It showed three grotesque green kings on i t purple background, with the text in bold orange letters: "Bad hair day'?! You're a virgin, you've just given birth and now three kings have shown up." If you look very closely, you may just notice a PostScript, in almost invisible tiny letters, which says, "Find out the happy ending at a church near you."

Apparently it was designed for people who do not normally go to church, especially young people. But it ridiculed the Christmas story, and did not have a clear positive message. Except for getting people talking, it was unlikely to do any good.

Maybe the message of "peace and goodwill to all men" has lost its impact, particularly in an increasingly confrontational and selfish community. But in an age when people are continuously calling for "them" to come down from their ivory towers and get involved with "us," to understand "our-" needs, meet "our" expectations, and solve more very relevant. "our" problems, the unchanging message of Christmas that "God is with us" is once more very relevant.

God cares, and Christmas in church is that supreme festive occasion when we can say, "Thank you!" and prove that we care too.

"Because of his boundless love Jesus became what we arethat he might make us what he is." (St Irenaeus)

Find out all about it at a church near you this month.

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