I AM CHRISTMAS DAY (Summary of a discussion led by John Mansfield)

PROGRESSIVE CHRISTIANITY North Staffs. Meeting 10 MAY'15. (Christmas all year round) John Mansfield began our meeting with the words of a recent choral composition by Howard Goodall, called 'I AM CHRISTMAS DAY'. This is not at all religious, yet in line with Jesus' approach which did not focus on organised religion. Referring to the Christmas story, it says "Centuries pass, yet still it seems to say: Every child born, every new dawn is another Christmas Day. Somewhere hope springs, one more heart sings, it's someone's Christmas day." That line "Every child born..." is in tune with Revd Christopher Hill, who when Bishop of Stafford wrote in the local newspaper "the world and the church still has a long way to go in really understanding the message of Jesus, the message of Christmas, which is God's love and life in humanity .....God in every child, ...God in us." That does not detract from the special event of the birth of Jesus; Howard Goodall says "Born in hardship, one child changed the world." Howard Goodall's words go on to stress that Christmas happens every day as we encounter, or engage in, care for others, especially in their suffering. So John Mansfield reminded us of the parable of the sheep and the goats which stresses the last judgment test about whether or not we helped those in need. We were led to consider the common Christian presentation about sin, the passage where St. Paul suggests it is best not to marry (and hence give birth) and the emphasis on life after death as being the only thing that matters. This often contrasts with the message of new birth, hope and the potential of every child; it contrasts with the message in the Gospel of John about the word of God being made flesh and dwelling among us. It also contrasts with the Jewish message of liberation and a promised land, based on the Exodus narrative. Questions about the nature of the bible stories provoked much lively discussion which ranged so widely it is impossible here to summarise. That God is in humanity brought one profound comment that we have a part to play in making life good, rather than imagining we have to leave it to a God out there. Another said we often forget the part of the Holy Spirit moving us on, rather than simply relying on the words of the bible as interpreted when written. Yet, how can we tell which are the words of Jesus ? Which words are to be accepted as 'true' and can we reject words we don't like ? Should priests dictate for people what the bible says ? Although we wandered off the subject, with some questionable comments made, we eventually ended with the hope that God is present in humanity, whose story is not yet finished.

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