Leader archive

From the Vicar

As I write, the horrific scenes of carnage from Paris are fresh in our minds.  The sheer barbarism of the terrorists defies belief. We weep with those who have lost their lives, those who have been traumatised or injured and those who have lost loved ones. We weep with France. We weep too for ourselves, as these attacks are attacks on the whole of the free world and none of us seems safe from the hands of this twisted death cult. For some, this raises the question as to how faith continues to be possible. How does God allow such suffering? How can goodness stand in the face of such evil? Where is hope to be found in a situation where death appears to have won? Such questions have always been with us. In the time of Jesus life could be barbaric. The Romans publically crucified those who crossed their path, on the roadside, outside the walls of cities as an horrific display of a brutal power that would brook no dissent. It seems that every age since then has had to face its own barbarism, as human cruelty has repeatedly found new depths of depravity.

In 2005 Jane and I visited Auschwitz. The number of people who died in these camps ran into seven figures. It is wrong to say that all the inmates received a tattooed number on their arms. Most of them were fed into the gas chambers before they could be tattooed. Those who were tattooed were those who were spared immediate death. Most did not last long. They had everything removed from them, including their names and their very humanity. They were treated as less than human and endured many cruel punishments and torture. It was in this camp that Maximillian Kolbe, a Franciscan Friar among the prisoners, stepped forward one day and offered to swop places with another man, who had been selected to be starved to death in a reprisal killing. This man had a family. Kolbe did not. So Kolbe saw that this man’s need for life was greater than his own. Kolbe and the other selected prisoners in the group did die, but a remarkable change came over the camp. In a place where there seemed to be no hope and in which everything that made those people human seemed to have been stripped away from them, one man’s action made them all feel that they were of value. Kolbe demonstrated that this man, Franciszek Gajowniczek, was worth dying for. In this he was living out his Christian faith as a disciple of Jesus Christ, who went to the cross to show the world the reality of God’s love.

As we prepare to celebrate another Christmas, we might reflect that Jesus was not born into a world of charming winter scenes with snowmen and flying reindeer. His was a world just as barbaric as our own. As we shudder at the destructiveness of evil actions in our world, there will never be ready answers. Yet we believe that, somehow, in one baby born in abject poverty some two thousand years ago, God himself took the risk of entering human history and he stands alongside us, despite the agonising cost to himself. As we face a dark and broken world, we do so in the knowledge that God walks the journey of our lives alongside us. He suffers with us and he weeps with us. And we must believe that (to quote Desmond Tutu) goodness is stronger than evil; love is stronger than hate; light is stronger than darkness; life is stronger than death. In the risen Christ, victory is already ours, through him who loved us.

I wish you all a joyful Christmas.



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