During the week Allen and I attended the Christmas performance of the Echology Choir and the University of Newcastle Chamber Orchestra, at the Sacred Heart Cathedral. Once again, it was truly inspiring, leaving my soul singing for joy. The singers, musicians, bell-ringers and conductors were just amazing. Please put a reminder, to look out for this, in your calendar for next year. Over the weekend, we also were in Sydney and so made our way to St Mary’s Cathedral for The Lights of Christmas event, which is heralded by a choir singing Christmas Carols on the steps of St Mary’s Cathedral, and as night falls, a light show on the front façade of the Cathedral is displayed. It is breathtakingly incredible and beautiful. Thousands of people filled Cathedral Square in peace and in awe of not only the singing and light show but also of the crib scene. There were people there of all ages, but best of all was the presence of young families who brought their children, connecting them to the Christmas story. It was great just to be there and witness so much faith and hope. It was not just a ‘show’.
In this message you will see the photos which Allen took with the key messages of Peace, Love, Joy and Goodwill.
As Allen and I made our way back to the train station, I was amazed at how many families with young children were just enjoying wandering around Sydney, just enjoying the presence of the festive season of Christmas.
In preparing for this message, I visited the Centre for Action and Contemplation website. There are two great Advent messages on this site, one by Richard Rohr and the other by Cynthia Bourgeaults. Both are worth listening to as they capture the essence of what we are preparing for:
When we speak of Advent or preparing for Christmas, we’re not talking about waiting for a little baby to be born. We’re in fact welcoming the universal, cosmic Christ—the Christ that is forever being born in the human soul and history.
So as we bring another year to a close, I am struck by our need for the divine heart being brought into radiance within our own human hearts. This last and final week of the Royal Commission in the Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse continues to remind me that I have a choice in the incarnation of God into our world today, not some 2000 years ago and not in some future place, beyond life, but now. I have a responsibility and a calling to Shine the Light.
Within Cynthia Bourgeaults message, she quotes from a poem by Denise Levertov, The Annunciation. I think this poem may well be the best gift I can give you for Christmas and the end of the year, 2017.
‘Hail, space for the uncontained God’
From the Agathistos Hymn,
Greece, 6th Century
We know the scene: the room, variously furnished,
almost always a lectern, a book; always
the tall lily.
Arrived on solemn grandeur of great wings,
the angelic ambassador, standing or hovering,
whom she acknowledges, a guest.
But we are told of meek obedience. No one mentions
The engendering Spirit
did not enter her without consent.
She was free
to accept or to refuse, choice
integral to humanness.
Aren’t there annunciations
of one sort or another
in most lives?
Some unwillingly undertake great destinies,
enact them in sullen pride,
when roads of light and storm
open from darkness in a man or woman,
are turned away from
in dread, in a wave of weakness, in despair
and with relief.
Ordinary lives continue.
God does not smite them.
But the gates close, the pathway vanishes.
She had been a child who played, ate, slept
like any other child–but unlike others,
wept only for pity, laughed
in joy not triumph.
Compassion and intelligence
fused in her, indivisible.
Called to a destiny more momentous
than any in all of Time,
she did not quail,
a simple, ‘How can this be?’
and gravely, courteously,
took to heart the angel’s reply,
the astounding ministry she was offered:
to bear in her womb
Infinite weight and lightness; to carry
in hidden, finite inwardness,
nine months of Eternity; to contain
in slender vase of being,
the sum of power–
in narrow flesh,
the sum of light.
Then bring to birth,
push out into air, a Man-child
needing, like any other,
milk and love -
but who was God.
This was the moment no one speaks of,
when she could still refuse.
A breath unbreathed,
She did not cry, ‘I cannot. I am not worthy,’
Nor, ‘I have not the strength.’
She did not submit with gritted teeth,
Bravest of all humans,
consent illumined her.
The room filled with its light,
the lily glowed in it,
and the iridescent wings.
opened her utterly.
God waits for us, he waits for us to respond courageously, a response of the heart, to be the ‘God Bearers’ of today. So as you stand at the crib scene over these coming weeks, please contemplate not only the mystery of the stable in front of you, but the stable of your own heart. I have no doubt that God waits to be born in us, each and every day; which means it is Christmas each day we breathe and move and have our being. It is Jesus who is a light and salvation, the one who was sent to show us how to live life most abundantly.
Thank you for all of your faithfulness and support during 2017. I eagerly await the possibilities of what 2018 will be for us in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, as we bring forth the cosmic Christ.