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One of the benefits of being retired is that you don’t have to go to work; one of the downsides is you don’t quite know when the holidays start. My youngest daughter comes to stay today, and one of her older sisters on Wednesday, with my grandson (and there’s her husband to be sure, but as long as the grandson is here that’s what Mrs S and I look forward to!). So that will start my holiday. I’ll pop in from time to time to see what you good folk are up to, but won’t be as present as usual.

It’s appropriate that it should be the arrival of mother and child (not to mention one wise man and a wise daughter) which brings Christmas to my house. For those from my tradition, what has always mattered most about Christmas was that it was the birth into the world of Christ by whom we are saved – for my tradition and yours, too I’ll wager. That is what we have in common, and it is one of the things we celebrate here. Jessica has created a rare place where Christians of all sorts can discuss their experience of the faith, theorise about it if they must, and, on the whole, do so without too much in the way of enmity. I am not quite sure where else you’d get a Californian ‘born again’ clown, traditionalist Catholics, a Lutheran, a Baptist, Anglicans and Evangelicals all sitting down together – so it is worth, not least now she’s back, saying a big thank you. It is also worth asking what this place is for?

My own view is that it offers us all the chance to reflect on what we have experience in terms of God in our lives, and to be reminded how much bigger he is that we can sometimes try to make him. It is natural, in our fallen state, that we receive him as we find him, and being as we are, we can be quite satisfied with that, and even imagine this gives us some sort of exclusive right to him. As I read what others write here, I am more convinced than ever that we are all like the blindfolded men in the room with the elephant – we all thing that whatever we hold is the whole of the elephant. By comparing notes with others, we can get a better idea of the dimensions of the elephant. Tradition matters more than some in my own tradition might think, but so does personal experience of God, and so does how we read the Bible. Faith, reason, tradition, all have to be brought into some sort of balance – and in his infinite wisdom, the Lord has provided something for each of us – and at different stages of our lives.

The other good thing here is there is no sort of syncretism at work. I don’t feel the need to be less of a Baptist because I can appreciate what Catholics bring to my understanding – in fact I feel a fuller Christian. So, as we come close to Christmas day and to that place in Bethlehem where the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, I wish you all a happy and a holy Christmas!

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