12 December 2014
Christmas starts with Christ
I find that sometimes the news gets on top of me. The papers cherry pick just enough bad news to fill a paper and the daily onslaught of tragedy has a negative affect on my mood. Recently, I have ignored the free papers on my commute, choosing instead to read a 1960s translation of Dante's Inferno. In other words, I have been immersed into the mind-bending vision of what hell might look like from the point of view of a medieval Italian poet. And it's no tea party. However, it's hard not to catch the juicier headlines emblazoned across the pages of the Metro. One such story was the 45 seconds it took to decide that there were no grounds for Michael Adebolajo to appeal his whole-life sentence nor for Michael Adebowale to appeal his 45-year tariff for killing Private Lee Rigby. The only question is why it took the judge as long as 45 seconds.
There are many differing understandings of hell, even within church. Is it the fiery pit, or is it just an absence of contact with God? And do all non-believers go there, regardless of moral virtue? Dante's hell graded sinners according to their sins, the worst offenders nearest the centre. One thing is for certain, despite their protestation that they were carrying out the killing of Lee Rigby in the name of Allah, Adebolajo and Adebowale's crime appeared godless. They showed no pity and no remorse. If there is a hell, surely they must be heading for its centre.
As we approach Christmas, we begin to consider the birth of Jesus and what it means for our complex, postmodern world. An organisation that I work for, Churchads.net, is responsible for an advertising campaign that reminds people that Christmas Starts with Christ.
On the one hand, this is a reminder that the season is not simply an opportunity to take time off work, play with the kids and eat too many Cadbury's Celebrations, but that it is the festival of Christ's birth –the arrival of the one who would rescue the world and all who live there. Yet on the other hand, Christmas is a new beginning. An opportunity to put right wrongs. To forgive.
Christ as a baby is symbolic of new life. And he showed us how to live life differently. How to make better choices. The killers of Private Rigby have what must seem like an eternity here on earth to contemplate their actions. And while we pray that Christ continues to heal the raw pain that Lee Rigby's loved ones experience daily, we must remember that we are all his children. As they grow older and greyer, will Adebolajo and Adebowale see what they did as we see it? Can even men as obviously hell-bound as these two experience a change of heart? Can Christ rescue such as them?
All we can be sure of is that no one on earth is out of reach of his love.