Brave Bishop

The Bishop of Croydon has been brave.

I’ve not read Nick Baines’ book.  I’m not likely to. It’s not personal, it’s just that my life is littered with unread literature. I’ve learnt to be ruthless. And this one doesn’t make the cut. I might just listen to the Church House Publishing Podcast if I get the chance. I’d like to hear why he decided to write it. And I suppose that after that I might just be persuaded to add it to a lengthy literary wish list!

But if the BBC are to be believed the Bishopof Croydon has laid into Christmas. Or at least the way we celebrate it. Brave man. It’s a good tactic to get on the telly but it’s unlikely to win the applause of the Anglican faithful. But perhaps he’s not preaching to the choir. He seems intent on separating the truth of Christmas from the dross. And I applaud that. I owned the embarassment that he refers to last weekend when I caught myself singing ‘the little Lord Jesus no crying he makes’. And I was on my own. I especially like his suggestion that we change the carol to ‘O Come all ye Faithless’. Nice. It reminds us, after all, that God sent His Son not simply for the faithful few but for the faithless masses.

The Bishop said this,

‘All sorts of fantasies have grown up around Christmas and it has been sentimentalised into the sort of anaemic tameness that has made many people think of it as nothing more than some sort of a fairy story – which is nothing short of tragic, because nothing could be further from the truth’.

I agree with him. I just think he’s brave!

6 thoughts on “Brave Bishop

  1. Ernest December 17, 2009 / 6:46 pm

    Having read his book and posted on his blog, I have to agree with you.

    His aim is to engage with the media and life, and he is not afraid to shake a few trees to see what falls out while he is doing it.

    He answers his critics in details and is prepared to admit that he might have rushed into one or two of his posts, so brave in admitting he can also get things wrong. He is robust, which is a refreshing change when so many today, do not actually say what they mean.

    In general he does an excellent job of showing people that not all Bishop’s are living in some Ivory Tower, but are part of the community, striving to live and work in a world and helping to put God into context as part of our busy lives here.

    I enjoyed his book, which gave me food for thought. One thing I have noted is that the very Carols that he described in his way, mean quite a lot to older people, particularly those in Care homes, where I have attended Carol Services over he past few days – they were engaged with them and even in their vulnerable positions – sang along with most of them, without the help of hymn sheets etc.
    He has

  2. Lauri December 18, 2009 / 10:20 am

    I believe in Father Christmas.

  3. Tom Stanbury December 18, 2009 / 11:04 am

    It is really hard to criticise ‘christmas’ without it sounding bah humbug.
    The views expressed by the Bishop have been mine for the last decade.
    So I give the reader a warning about the following comment it does express strong opinions.

    My current thing is present giving. I am all for presents, both giving and receiving. But sometimes we give presents out of a sense of obligation, as if by spending money denotes our love for someone. We buy rubbish and continue the consumerism which is a noose around many peoples necks and if the climate change scientists are right then our current rate/style of consumption has implications for the world as a whole.

    At the same time I don’t go for the recent fad of buying chickens for a family in Burkina Faso as a gift. If you want to help poor people in another part of the world that is brilliant but don’t smugly pretend that it is a present for me! As adults we say what I wonderful idea but kids recognise a ‘tight wad’. The said ‘giver’ is too stingy to give away their money and also buy a present.
    For example I would rather my nieces understood how blessed they are in this world and gave their own money to help the poor family in another part of the world. It is different if as a family you decide to cut something out/make a sacrifice to give money away.
    I personally find the link between Christmas and present giving slightly tenuous. ‘Oh we give presents because the wise men gave them to Joseph and Mary’ or ‘we give presents to remind us of the gift of Christ’ Really, what do presents at christmas time have to with God becoming man.?
    Really not sure how the nintendo wii would remind anyone about the birth of Christ (for the record I think the wii is excellent fun so maybe a good present and works across the generations).
    As christians are we being good stewards when we just buy stuff for nieces/godchildren/family/friends because we are meant to give something. I once saw a happy 9 month old baby sat on the kitchen floor had a wooden spoon in one hand banging an empty cake tin. The wooden spoon was good to chew on in between pauses in the banging. Yet the same 9 month old had boxes of toys, bought by friends and relatives.

    Perhaps it is better to buy the well thought out possibly more expensive but more useful, needed beneficial and a gift best suited to the individual. At the same time I am not proposing the present has to be serious and spiritual it just shouldn’t be a present for the sake of it. I guess I don’t think there is anything discernibly christian about giving presents at Christmas time.
    I am not afraid of sticking to my guns but not sure whether those around me are ready for the following line ‘I couldn’t find you a suitable present but when I find the right thing I am going to get it.’ I just can’t handle the look of disappointment!

    I am tight but hopefully not a Scrooge and constantly need to be reminded to be as generous as the God who loves me.

    PS I suspect Lauri does believe in Father Christmas but at least he doesn’t have a vested interest like every retailer on the High St. Apparently St Nicholas was a real man.

  4. Phil C December 18, 2009 / 12:53 pm

    The brave bishop reminds me of a similar story last year – didn’t the Archbishop of Canterbury get slammed back then for talking about traditions that bear no relation to the Christmas story? I’m glad when those stories hit the headlines rather than the usual expert who comes up with yet another theory about what “really happened”.

    Tom, I think you’re right that present-giving at Christmas bears, in itself, no direct link to God becoming man. But if the present-giving is there anyway (along with all the other fun Christmas traditions like turkey and Christmas trees), it’s great if people use it as an opportunity to remind themselves of God’s generosity and goodness! If anything, the tradition encourages us to get our hearts right so we can give presents in the right spirit. Left to our own devices, would we give other people as many presents?

  5. Tom Stanbury December 18, 2009 / 5:07 pm

    Phil- I am not against tradition. In fact as I get older and understand history, tradition has a democratic quality that we can refer and all look back to.
    I am more questioning about our consumerist culture in relation to giving presents at christmas. I guess my key thought is ‘it shouldn’t be a present for the sake of it.’ You should read CS Lewis What Christmas means to me.

    In answer to your question you surely don’t think it is about the number of presents we give? You can get a lot of crap from the Everything for £ store. Or is it about quality. And in respect of your point on tradition, present giving is a recent practice at christmas in the scheme of things.

  6. John Lumgair January 5, 2010 / 9:56 am

    As far as I can see people use different coping methods to get them thought the dark cold months. What a culture does during this season just shows up what they value. People like carols because they can sing them on autopilot, and it makes them warm and nostalgic. I’m not sure anyone is more likely to think about jesus than any other time. But if we can get a chance to talk about God become man that’s a bonus. (Whether we take the bishops angle or another one.)

    Most of the traditions harmless, but not Christian.

    Lets not be too dismissive of the present giving it’s useful to give some business a bit of predictability and thats good to keep people jobs.

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