Message from the chaplain - 3 December 2018
Each Advent and Christmas, I am struck by the seeming-absurdity of the Christmas story: God, come to show us a different kingdom, is born a vulnerable baby; the God-child born in a stable or cave in which animals lived – hardly a place for a royal birth; the birth announced first to unsuspecting and terrified shepherds rather than to the powers-that-were of the time; those under whose very noses (Herod and many besides) Christ was born. They were unaware of the impending and momentous birth, yet Magi from a country far away in the East knew all about it.
Similarly, in the busyness that is the wrapping up of the end of a year at work, school, and certainly in shopping centres, and amidst the clamour of the news which the media brings in our contemporary world, Advent is a season in which we wait, expectantly, for Christ to be born into the world anew at Christmas. It is a season of hope and a season in which we reflect on what Christ’s birth could mean for each of us and to our world today.
All of this seeming-absurdity points to a new way of making sense of the world – that which seemed absurd to the world, was and is God’s way – the way of love. But we should not be fooled: this way of love is not a passive or submissive way. It is gentle, yes, but also a fierce, awesome, overwhelming love that is characteristic of the God who loves ... all.
Today, Christ as gift received at Christmas is, once again, God’s breaking through the way we see the world and interact with it, to astound and to move us deeply as with God’s way. Such a breaking-through leaves us and our world forever changed – we cannot simply awake the day after Christmas thinking it is all over. This is why Christmas will be immediately followed by the season of the Epiphany – a time for us to absorb slowly God’s revelation of God’s self in Christ, to us and to our world.
The artwork below is one St Mary’s has recently acquired: Madonna and Child by contemporary South African artist, Joseph Capelle. In the seasons of Advent and Christmas, Madonna and Child provides a beautiful, poignant and contextual representation of Mary, our patron saint, together with the child Christ. As the 2019 school year dawns, more of Capelle’s artwork will be in our chapel in the form of a unique set of Stations of the Cross paintings which we have commissioned. Capelle has created various sets of Stations in churches in South Africa and also one in Israel and, as a man with a profound relationship with God, he considers such art to be his calling and ministry. As I write this article, our new set has been completed and framed and I am excited to see it going up in our chapel after the end of the school year – and equally excited to listen to and observe the reactions of all who enter the chapel in the new year.
To all, I wish you a blessed time of waiting, expectantly and in hope, for Emmanuel – Christ-with-us – to come anew in our lives and our hearts this Christmas.
Revd Claudia Coustas