Chesterton said, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.”


Below is the text of the Mediation preached by His Grace the Archbishop in the Cathedral on 16th December.

In 1847 a French wine merchant approached his parish priest for permission to write a Christmas poem. His name was Placide Cappeau de Rocquemaure. History does not record the quality of his wines, but we all recognise the words of the poem he then wrote:
‘O Holy Night,

The stars are brightly shining
It is the night of our dear Saviour’s birth.’

And it is true. At least here in the Cathedral, the stars are shining brightly, the star on the top of our tree and, I would like to believe, those in our hearts as we are enthralled by the beauty of this moment.
Star light, as we know, takes a long time to reach us. The measurement of light years is not something I understand, but I know that light from distant stars travels for much longer than we might think. Indeed it is a fact that the light of a star can come into our sight long after the star itself has ceased to exist. Stars collapse, yet their light still reaches us.

Is this an image for the light of faith today? Here we are, celebrating that light, the story of the birth of our Redeemer over two thousand years ago. The story has come to us over the centuries, in a long, slow process. But must we now face the possibility that for many in our society the source of that light, the gift of faith given by God, has largely collapsed. We might catch a glimpse of its light in the innate goodness of so many people. But is its source something for which we no longer have a place?

Or this beautiful music. Its words and sounds thrill the hearts of us all. But are these words, is this beauty simply an echo of a lost faith, a cultural inheritance which we treasure and enjoy, but no longer a message which shapes our lives, for which we might be prepared to give all?

This evening let us strengthen the connection between this beautiful light, this enchanting music and their true source. Without such a reconnection this is simply a performance, a beauty without its true soul. Then it is like a life which lacks a coherent narrative. Such a life is no more than a series of moments, some wonderful, some nostalgic, some poignant or even painful. Yet it lacks an inner meaning which gives purpose, which summons us to self-sacrifice, which opens for us a lasting hope.

Yet tonight the narrative is clear: God, in his infinite love, enters our world in one unrepeatable, transforming moment. The Eternal Word of God takes flesh and is born of the Virgin Mary. From that moment all is changed. The horizons of our consciousness are expanded. Now the instinct, the desire, for ‘more’, which always stretched us beyond the present towards an inexpressible future, finds its full meaning. God has shared in our human condition so that we might come to share in God’s own divine life. This is the wondrous exchange, this transformation of our existence, this revelation of truth, of meaning, of enduring hope which gives rise to this beauty as our hearts sing in thanksgiving and praise.

Let us play our part in the recovery of this true Christmas story. Let us tell it in its fullness within our family circle, around a family crib, passing it on in wonder and loving awe, from generation to generation. Let us not be dismayed by the inevitable streak of cynicism which emerges out of the culture in which we live. But let us with faithful simplicity share our joyous faith in the God who comes to meet us. He comes to welcome us and to uplift us.

This is a truth for everyone, without exception. Much of the time this is hard to grasp. But at Christmas time our defences are down. We are ready to go to the crib. There, on our knees, we can again sense the source of the music; we can glimpse its true origin. There we intuit the truth: that the mystery of God, awesome as it must be, comes to us in a darkened night so that we are not blinded but intrigued, its light beckoning us to come closer and receive.

When the feast of Christmas comes, go to the crib as I will. Take a reluctant friend. Then let us piece together our broken story so that our world may receive a measure of healing and find again its true source of happiness and peace. Amen.

+Vincent Nichols