The season of Advent is the beginning of the Church’s new year, a time of preparation for the great Feast of Christmas – the Incarnation of God at Bethlehem. The Creator of all things, whom the heavens cannot contain, is found wrapped in a shawl within an animal’s stall.
The mystery of the Incarnation of God in the Christ child is central to any authentic expression of the Christian faith. I believe the reason that the Church in our country seems to be in terminal decline is that the centrality of the Incarnation is not celebrated and proclaimed.
It is no accident that attendance at our churches is solid and indeed growing. The ‘supernatural’ quality of worship in our churches is due to the celebration of the God man, the Christ, whose divinity shines through the human clay of Him who was born in Bethlehem. The element of ‘otherness’ or holiness in worship is bound to be perceivable where the great mystery of the Incarnation is loved and celebrated.
As I write I have an image in my mind of a great church or basilica where the inside of the dome has been ‘artexed’ for as long as human memory. Priest and people mount scaffolding and chip away at the plaster and find with wonder and amazement the most glorious image of Christ in glory – covered for so many years, yet ever there, though previously unseen.
As awful as this pandemic has been, possibly one of the few benefits has been a re-evaluation of things that really matter. We have had to think anew.
The customary rather shallow preparation for Christmas – involving tinsel, too much food and forced ‘jollity’, is discovered as so much sentiment.
The weeks leading up to the birth of Christ were hard and bewildering for Mary and Joseph. They were refugees in exile from all that was familiar and known. They sought a safe place for the birth of that baby who would change the world and reclaim it to God.
During these days of Covid-19 and all its alarms maybe, just maybe, we can enter a deeper understanding of all that Mary and Joseph underwent in their seeking a place of refuge for the little God man.
I have never perceived any artistic merit in Artex – maybe it is time to chip away at coverings and find, behind shallow appearance, the Face of Christ, God revealed in the child of Bethlehem.
God bless you all and keep you safe.