Sunday, December 25, 2016

Michael Ramsey: "The Moral Message of Christmas"

Today the joy of Christmas shines in a world that is darkened by sadness. How real are the gifts of human goodness, nonetheless: they are gifts from the God of Bethlehem who is their source; for God who took human flesh in the stable is God from whose store of love humanity’s gifts of love are drawn.

The stable is a symbol of Christ’s poverty. The characteristic that gave him the title poor was his simplicity. He did without many of the things that people crave. None did he criticise more severely than those who hankered after more and more possessions and who were preoccupied with money. The worth of a person’s life, he insisted, does not consist of possessions, for piling things up does not increase worth. People matter more than things, as people have an eternal destiny. Those who do not fuss about their standard of living and their luxuries are freer to love one another, to serve one another and to enjoy one another. Christ became poor, and he chose the way of simplicity; and if we follow him he promises us riches of his own, riches of happiness and brotherhood shared with one another and with him.

How did Christ become poor? By coming to share in the limitations, frustrations, and hard realities of our human life, our pains and sorrows, and even our death. The imagery of Christ’s riches and his poverty is a vivid picture of the Incarnation; but it is another thing to grasp its moral message and to live by it, the message of simplicity and self-sacrifice. Christ gave himself to us to enable us to give ourselves to one another: that is the message of Bethlehem to a world in trouble.

Come to Bethlehem once again: see the stable - see the child. Knowing that he is God made man, knowing that he who was rich has become poor for us, let us kneel in the darkness and cold that is the symbol of our blind and chilly hearts, and say in a new way: ‘yours in the kingdom, the power and the glory forever.’

- Arthur Michael Ramsey, 100th Archbishop of Canterbury

Quote taken from Glory Descending: Michael Ramsey and His Writings (William B. Eerdmans, 2005).