Bishop of Ludlow's Article - Ludlow Advertiser Christmas 2018
One of the privileges I have had is to visit, on several occasions, the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Tradition, stretching back to at least the 2nd century, considers this to be the place where Jesus Christ was born. Above the grotto marked as birthplace, is the remarkably unchanged 4th century Byzantine church that was begun by Helena of Constantinople, the mother of Emperor Constantine I. The construction started in 327 and was completed a few years later.
Today it is as popular a place as ever, for pilgrimage and tourism. Many pass through the cave, view the 14 point star symbolising the spot of the birth and the generations leading up to it, and then pass on. As with any such place it is possible to respond in several ways and at different levels.The most obvious is to add it to one’s bucket list of places of interest visited. Another is to marvel at the story and its enduring power to draw. Yet another is to be enthralled at the preserved Byzantine mosaics and traditions held within the church. At yet another level, it is possible to stop and reflect for a moment and ask: what is this is all about? Why all the fuss and why the significance? What struck me the first time I visited was just how powerful a thought it is that the God it speaks of is not a distant unintelligible entity but one who is literally down to earth. Here is a vison of God who inhabits and fully identifies with our humanity bringing light to dispel darkness.
Christmas, like that church, can be experienced at so many different levels, all of which have their place. Celebrations, family gatherings, local traditions, the giving and receiving of presents are all an important part of the season. Christmas does, in addition, offer the opportunity to stop and ask: what is this all about? The age old Christmas message still points to one who shared our humanity to bring peace on earth and good will to all. How ever you celebrate, have a wonderful Christmas season.