From the Associate Rector

Dear friends,

I spotted something this Christmas, which I had never noticed before. In the days immediately following Christmas Day, the church commemorates a sequence of martyrs. On December 26th we remembered Stephen, the very Christian to be executed for his faith. On the 29th we remembered Thomas Becket, the 12th Century Archbishop of Canterbury who was murdered in his cathedral. Between these two we also remembered the Holy Innocents, the boys murdered by King Herod in an attempt to kill the baby Jesus, whom the Magi had told him was a new-born king.

All this bloodshed in the middle of Christmas leaves a red stain on white snow, so to speak. Our inability to deal with this at Christmastime is a demonstration of our misunderstanding of Christmas. God came to be with us – that’s what Christmas is all about. Being with us includes encountering hardship, sadness, and, as Jesus shows us, bloodshed and violence. Many people find Christmas impossibly hard because we have made it into a feast of jollity and, to a large extent, perfection. People whose lives haven’t turned out the way they’d hoped, people who have suffered bereavement or illness or great sadness, can find Christmas tough. This year many families will have had Christmas dinner from the foodbank and only very small presents for the children. Here’s another stain on the snow – the stain of tears.

At first, this could appear to strip away our Christmas joy. But in fact the innocent baby whose birth we celebrated on Christmas Day grew up to be a man who challenged authority, divided opinion and angered his opponents. Incarnation for God means taking on all of the pain and loneliness and anger and bloodshed of life, not just the nice parts. God in Jesus took on every aspect of human experience, and offers us healing for all that it is broken in our own lives.

St Stephen reminds us that, at Christmastime, Jesus is with us in joy and in sorrow. As Stephen was dying, he had a vision, in which he saw Jesus standing at God’s right hand. Now as we know, the standard phrase is ‘sitting’ at God’s right hand. I like to think that, in the hard times in our lives, Jesus is up on his feet, standing and taking notice, waiting to give us a hand along the path. He is very familiar with hardship and suffering. He’s rooting for us – and now and in the future, reaching out his hand to welcome us home.

I wish you a joyful and successful start to 2022!

Best Wishes,



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