Christmas Message from Bishop Gregor

It is quite likely that people reading this blog won’t be aware of Bishop Gregor’s Christmas Message – I don’t think it was sent to clergy or congregations and it doesn’t appear on the diocesan website. However, it is quite a good one and so I’m putting it on here.

gregor_duncanI heard a carol new to me last year at the Cathedral: All this time this song is best: Verbum caro factum est. That is, All this time this song is best: The Word was made flesh. (It only rhymes in Latin.)

That carol is right, it is indeed the best song we can sing at Christmastide.

But why? At Christmas I receive the odd circular letter folded into a Christmas card. I enjoy these letters, on the whole. Last year one came from people I used to know from Oxford days, way back in the 1970s. At the top it had a quote from the great Swiss theologian, Karl Barth:

We may choose to live without God. God has decided from all eternity never to live without us.

Wow! That leapt out at me.

You see, St John’s great proclamation that The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, the best song we can sing, is the best song because in singing it we sing of God’s desire, of God’s choice, from all eternity, never to live without us. Remember, for St John, the story of Christmas begins with God, in eternity. In the beginning was the Word.

Now, when you choose to live with someone, and especially when you commit to live with someone for the whole of the rest of your life, this is to do with love, a determined love that, as St Paul says in his first letter to the Corinthians bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. A love that is patient and kind and rejoices in the right.

This kind of love is often beyond us – though often we can come pretty close to it – but it is never ever beyond God. This is how God loves us and if we can love a little bit like that well, then, we are showing something of God’s love in the world.

The other thing is that when you choose to live with someone faithfully and truly, you are recognising something in the other person that is attractive to you, that gives you delight, that makes you want the relationship to grow and deepen. And that’s another reason why Verbum caro factum est, the Word became flesh is the best song. For it reminds us that God finds us attractive, seeks us out, wants his relationship with us, and ours with him, to grow and deepen until it comes to glorious flower. The song is about God and it is about us and it is all about love.

I sang another carol new to me at the Cathedral last year:

Lord, you are love beyond all telling,
Saviour and King we worship you;
Emmanuel, within us dwelling,
Make us and keep us pure and true:
Lord, you are love beyond all telling,
Saviour and King, we worship you.

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us – love beyond all telling – that is the heart of Christmas, the core of our celebration, the ground of all our hope.


  1. Rosemary Hannah says

    It is very good indeed.

  2. Thomas says

    Excellent! I particularly like the idea that “God has decided from all eternity never to live without us.” So much more generous than those atonement theories which suggest that God was- in effect- sulking with us until his wrath was satisfied through the death of his Son…

  3. Very good – but why hasn’t had wider circulation or publicity? After all, your Christmas message has been very widely and publicised.

    It seems to me that our Bishop and the diocese need to get their communications sorted out for 2014. This message from Bishop Gregor deserves to have had more attention….

    • Well yes, but whilst I agree that this needed better circulation, I still think that the priority in the diocese should focus on making sure that all congregations have (decent and up to date) websites.

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