Bishop’s Christmas message: A story to explain all about our life

Bishop Robert Paterson

Bishop Robert Paterson

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Sometimes you just need a big story to help you explain the complicated things about life.

They might be ancient stories like the hare and the tortoise or the fox and the grapes, or new stories like the latest tale from Star Wars.

Stories are like pieces of a jigsaw that help us build up the bigger picture of life.

Those are the small stories. Then there are the big stories, the ones that begin to explain culture and history, the ones that subconsciously set the scale of our values.

The Christian story is that kind of story: for 2,000 years it has shaped our character and our values, both as individuals and as communities and nations.

What do I mean by that? OK, one of the big issues today is the range of conflicts in the Middle East and Africa that are driving refugees and migrants (and a few terrorists) to Europe.

How do we go about getting our minds round the complicated issues that this situation raises?

For a start, we will think of the practical consequences: the effects on European culture, population growth, whether the state can cope, how many and so on. But practical arguments are not enough; we are human and we need to make moral judgements, too.

Unless we think that the only standards are our own personal values set to a scale of what pleases each of us most, where are we to look for some more holistic way of evaluating this crisis? In other words, where do our moral values come from?

The Christian faith, which has probably been the most important influence on the character of these islands since time immemorial, provides us with our great value-giving story.

It’s a story that takes us back into the mists of time but makes a mighty leap forward in the events of the birth of Jesus, described as the becoming flesh of the ‘word’ and power of God.

That story – and don’t be fooled by those who tell you that the New Testament texts are unreliable – opens up a whole range of values to shape our judgements.

There’s the misunderstood, pregnant teenager, homelessness, divine vulnerability, refugees, recognition by uneducated men and professors of astrology, the list goes on because that’s what stories do.

Join me in making a start on letting the story of Jesus Christ’s birth seep into you.

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