View from the Rectory - December 2017 & January 2018

   THE RECTOR

The season of the work’s do and office party is getting underway. Appalling hangovers and hazy recollections of embarrassing indiscretions are an established part of the culture, all born of that yuletide tradition of misrule whose origins are lost in the mists of time. This year many such celebrations may be somewhat muted  as the boundary between acceptable seasonal indiscretion and potentially abusive behaviour seems more blurred than ever.  Politicians, entertainers and numerous so-called celebrities may be quaking in their boots, fearful of that most unwelcome Christmas gift, exposure in the press. Many reputations are in tatters, and in some instances rightly so. The abuse of power for nefarious ends, particularly when it involves the  humiliating and degrading treatment of others, should be exposed. It is an injustice and one for which public embarrassment and potential ruin is a legitimate and self-induced punishment. Seldom do I have anything positive to say about electronic media and its ever-proliferating formats. However, it has certainly made it harder for people in hitherto unassailable positions to conceal the abuse of power.  While this is undoubtedly a good thing we should also be mindful of how social media has itself become a mechanism for the abuse of power. Reputations are easily tarnished, and even if subsequently vindicated, something of the stain tends to remain. The slew of allegations currently washing around includes some that are not criminal and amount to little more than embarrassing personal indiscretions.  Now that a mechanism has been found for the exposure of wrongdoing there is a danger of it fuelling a culture of vengeance, a quasi-puritanical movement, unjust and destructive in its own right.

The celebration of Christmas is a timely opportunity to pause and reflect on current events. For at the heart of our faith is a story of the laying aside of power. God came among us as a human being and embraced our condition in all its vulnerability. On the Cross he perished amongst thieves, the despised and rejected of society.  Likewise, he was born in the degrading surroundings of a stable and laid in a cattle stall. He was  welcomed initially by the poorest and least esteemed in the locality, the shepherds. Throughout his earthly ministry, Jesus associated with the marginalised and outcast, the so-called publicans and sinners, and was constantly in the eye of the powerful amongst his own people, the Scribes and Pharisees who plotted his downfall.  Jesus suffered as a consequence of the abuse of power and was fully aware that retaliation would diminish his integrity and corrupt his purpose. He embraced his destiny with tears and sweat and remaining untarnished in his humanity he was vindicated in the Resurrection. This is not to say that we should be silent in the face of suffering, our own or anyone else’s, but rather that we should seek to resist being sucked in to the spiral of injustice and vengeance. It is an unfortunate fact of history, and indeed of the human condition, that victims sometimes become perpetrators.  Jesus showed us a different way and whilst it is very hard to resist the social forces that shape us, it is as well that we keep his example at the forefront of our lives.

Christmas is now the only occasion in our national calendar that is widely kept. Yes, Easter retains a place in the public consciousness but the customs associated with it, both religious and secular are not as widespread as once they were.  Christmas however does make an impact on the public mood and behaviour.  For a week or two at the end of the year a veil is drawn over many disputes and problems, we are inclined to see the best in others and to speak the language of merriment and peace. It is reminiscent of the ancient tradition of the truce, that seasonal pause in medieval warfare kept in honour of Jesus’ birth and mindful of the message of the angels, Glory to God in the highest and peace to his people on earth. In one sense that peace is elusive. We yearn for it in praying Thy kingdom come. But we do have a foretaste of it in as much as it is Jesus’ gift of himself to the Church by the Holy Spirit. Amidst the merriment and excess of the season it is good to remember that God has called us to be living signs of his peace. As such we are ambassadors of the Kingdom that is to come, living signs, whose power should not be underestimated, of a renewed humanity in which injustice and abuse are no more.

May the peace and joy of Christ be with you this Christmastime.

 

Charles Booth

 


 


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