Advent thoughts

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As Advent starts the Bishop of Chester asks us to reflect on the mystery at the heart of all our lives…

Think back to the best Christmas present which you ever received. It was probably a surprise: mine was a Hornby 00 train set when I was about 7. I had no idea it was coming.

To devout Jews 2,000 years ago, their Messiah came as a surprise - a baby, ‘born in a stable so bare’. That he would go on to be publicly crucified was not so much of a surprise as a deep shock. To the educated gentile mind, it was just foolish to believe that God would appear on earth as a human being. To the Jewish mind, it was blasphemous.

Yet it is the heart of the Christian Faith, the centre from which everything else radiates. The Creator who has become the re-Creator, or Redeemer. It will always remain something of a mystery – ‘Tis mystery all, the immortal dies, who can explain his strange design?’, as Charles Wesley put it, when in poetry, he ‘sounded the depths of love divine’.

But the mystery also makes sense of everything, in the beauty of holiness which only a child-like wonder can appreciate. And the story begins at Christmas:

Lo within a manger lies

He who built the starry skies

Many modern cynics reject the Christian Faith with a thinly disguised contempt – in some cases with a brazen and aggressive contempt. But for those who have eyes to see, and ears to hear, the magic of Christmas reveals the mystery at the heart of all our lives.