Christmas message from the President of the Methodist Conference (1)

Revd Graham Carter, President of The Methodist Conference, saysin his Christmas message that efforts to replace Christmas withnon-religious holiday events are either seeking 'to enforce a kindof sameness or are afraid of religion.' Graham, says that fearsabout Christmas offending people of other faiths are misplaced:'genuinely religious people of all faiths are happy aboutcelebrating Christmas, seeing it not as divisive but enriching thefield of faith.'

The full text of Graham's message follows:

'Christmas is a down to earth celebration. We celebrate a God whois not far off but one who is deeply involved in human life.Christmas is not about fairy tales and far-fetched beliefs. It isabout the realities of human living and the acknowledgement thatGod is with us, even in the dark and dingy places.

'There are those who would hide the celebration of Christmas.Afraid of imagined dispute and conflict they want to have everyonecelebrate 'Winterval' or 'Winterfest'. These are not people whohave a genuine interest in equality. They are people who eitherwant to enforce a kind of sameness or are afraid of religion.Genuinely religious people of all faiths are happy aboutcelebrating Christmas, seeing it not as divisive but enriching thefield of faith. As Christians we would not want to stop Jewscelebrating Hanukkah, Muslims celebrating Eid or Hindus celebratingDiwali. Nor do people of other religions want to stop thecelebration of Christmas.

'Over the centuries, Christianity has shown a remarkable ability touse existing festivals and imbue them with deeper meaning. TheChurch took over a Roman celebration to celebrate the birth ofChrist in mid-winter, and in Britain we still use the pagan namefor Easter. Now that some people want to go back andde-Christianise Christmas, to secularise it or re-institute paganceremonies, we ought to be more particular about making sure oursis a truly Christian celebration. We should resist attempts totrivialise an understanding that brings a deeper meaning thansimply the rising of the sun in the winter sky once more.

'The Christmas message reminds us that Christianity is aworld-affirming religion, not world-denying. In our Christmasstory, God becomes human in a very ordinary way. The stories ofMary, the shepherds and the wise men may sound exceptional, but intheir telling they emphasise how ordinary the event was. Mary'ssong, the Magnificat, reminds us that she was from a lowly family;there wasn't even a proper bed for Jesus when he was born;shepherding was among the lowest of occupations, yet the shepherdswere the first to be given the news of the birth; the wise menthought Jesus would have been born in a palace, but even with alltheir wisdom, they got it wrong.

'The good news of Christmas is that the most ordinary of people arecounted special in God's eyes and they have a special purpose.Well-being and good life do not depend on status or wealth orpossessions. This means all of human life is valuable and thecharitable acts so popular at Christmas are not just out of thekindness of people's hearts, but express the reality of how thingsare supposed to be. 'Winterval' and 'Winterfest' give rise toselfish indulgence. Christmas celebrates the good life forall.'

This message is also available as an audio file. Visit www.methodist.org.uk/index.cfm?fuseaction=news.webradio