Having trawled through the Christmas messages of leading Church figures, there was only one glimmer of light; only one person used the occasion of the birth of the Son of God to communicate joy to the world. And it wasn’t a cleric in a pulpit.

After the Prime Minister had issued his challenge to the Archbishop of Canterbury that the UK is a Christian country ‘and we should not be afraid to say so’, Dr Williams duly responded, saying: “Bonds have been broken, trust abused and lost.” He urged people not to build lives based on selfishness and fear. He lamented: “Whether it is an urban rioter, mindlessly burning down a small shop that serves his community, or a speculator turning his back on the question of who bears the ultimate cost for his acquisitive adventures in the virtual reality of today’s financial world, the picture is of atoms spinning apart in the dark.”

Merry Christmas to you, too.

The Pope did no better, choosing to focus on the increasing commercialisation of Christmas. He opined: “Let us ask the Lord to help us see through the superficial glitter of this season, and to discover behind it the child in the stable in Bethlehem, so as to find true joy and true light.”

Of course, one man’s ‘superficial glitter’ is another’s sacred tradition.

The most egregious Christmas message came from the Roman Catholic leader in England and Wales, Archbishop Vincent Nichols, who saw fit to use the occasion of the birth of the Son of God to criticise Israel for constructing a security barrier. He spoke of the shadow that falls particularly heavily on the town of Bethlehem: “At this moment,” he said, “the people of the parish of Beit Jala prepare for their legal battle to protect their land and homes from further expropriation by Israel.”

Of course, one’s man’s ‘expropriation’ is another’s historic and legal right. But note this is ‘further expropriation’, without any context of on-going terrorist atrocities or understanding of the security concerns. “We are to be freshly attentive to the needs of those who, like Jesus himself, are displaced and in discomfort,” the Archbishop said, adopting the narrative of ‘Jesus the Palestinian’. One wonders why Archbishop Vincent did not see fit to mention those Jews are slaughtered in their own homes, because Jesus was a Jew, too. And he also faced one or two bloody atrocities.

And what of the Coptic Christians, Archbishop? Or the Assyrian Christians? Or the Palestinian Christians? Perhaps the Nigerian Christians bombed to kingdom come by Islamists on Christmas Day came a little too late for his sermon, but there are many thousands of believers all over the Middle East who must wonder why such a senior bishop would chose to ignore their plight and focus instead on 50 Arab families in Beit Jala.

Love your neighbour? Perhaps so. But one’s neighbour is also the Jew who lives in Israel, who is dependent on the security wall for his life. But perhaps the Archbishop is ignorant of those who are victims of ethnic and religious cleansing by successive Palestinian authorities. And the little town of Bethlehem, which 20 years ago was 60 per cent Christian, is today less than 15. Perhaps he has forgotten the Church of the Nativity, which Palestinian gunmen stormed and defiled in 2002. How many Christian families have been ejected from their homes, Archbishop? How much land has been ‘expropriated’ by Arab Muslims?

There was only one Church leader who spoke inspirationally of courage and hope; only one who used the occasion to speak of the importance of family, friends and the indomitable human spirit. Only one who spoke of the gospel of forgiveness, the uniqueness of Jesus the Saviour, the love of God through Christ our Lord:

posted byArchbishop Cranmer at 12:54 PM Permalink 112 comments

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