Christmas Message from Harrogate: The birth of baby Jesus shaped both our world and our culture

Father Gary Waddington of St Wilfrid’s Church in Duchy Road, Harrogate looks ahead to the festive celebrations and back on what the true meaning of Christmas means to us all...

Tuesday, 24th December 2019, 4:55 pm
Updated Tuesday, 24th December 2019, 4:56 pm
Father Gary Waddington of St Wilfrids Church in Harrogate writes his Christmas message.

The arrival of a baby is life changing. For many parents, that’s a hugely positive experience.

For some though, it can be a time of great stress, anxiety or depression. In every case, life is transformed, sometimes unexpectedly.

If you’ve become a parent this year - congratulations!

That experience radiates far beyond just parents and child. Brothers and sisters, grandparents, uncles, aunts and friends crowd to ‘coo’ over the new baby.

Social media allows an even larger audience to admire the new addition. Beyond family, society is imperceptibly changed by the arrival of each new human being.

Each new child, in their own way, has an impact.

In the midst of political turmoil, a young Jewish couple welcomed a child.

Separated from their home town, they had none of the comforts we enjoy or take for granted.

No midwife assisted at the birth. No paediatrician was on stand-by in case things got difficult. No grandparents were on hand to help out.

They had visitors, sure.

Local farm workers popped in to say hello. And some rather exotic visitors from abroad heard all about it, and gave them some unusual presents.

Before long they had to flee. A ‘hostile environment’ policy had been enacted, and so they would find themselves welcomed by strangers in a foreign land.

Mary and Joseph, as we know them, knew this child would change their world. They had an inkling that this child would change the world for everyone: they could not possibly have known how significant that birth would be.

It’s easy for us to romanticise the birth of Jesus Christ. It was not ‘picture card perfect’ and as moving, heart-warming and charming as every child singing away in a manger undoubtedly is, most of us wouldn’t choose a cattle-shed as the optimal location for the birth of a child. It’s easy too for us to miss the real impact of his birth.

It’s tempting, I know, but his birth is about far more than a big lunch, or piles of presents, or the excuse for a party.

The birth of the Christ child and his subsequent life, death and resurrection have shaped, and continue to shape our world and our culture today. Great works of art, sculpture, literature and music; the system of governance and law we have received; the very nature of our society and its institutions.

All these, to a great extent have been shaped by the birth of this one child and the teachings he asked us to follow.

In churches across Harrogate this Christmas, we’re invited to re-acquaint ourselves with this child and know his life-giving, life-changing love.

Why not join us, to discover just how important he continues to be for each of us today?

A very happy Christmas to you all.