The Right Revd Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham has released his third Christmas message in which he talks about putting ourselves in other’s shoes and trying to understand things from their perspective. Closing off his last of three Christmas messages, Bishop Paul prays that our hearts will be open in welcome of others less fortunate than ourselves this Christmas and in the coming months.
CHRISTMAS MESSAGES 2015 – 3
Do you ever take time to ponder? To think your way into someone else’s shoes? It is worth doing. If I was ‘X’ how would I feel? What would I say, or do? Next time you shout at the TV screen in your favourite soap, ‘No, don’t say/do that!’ You have stood in their shoes.
So if we do this with the Christmas story what happens if we have arrived in Bethlehem after a long journey and we know the baby is about to arrive. If we are Mary, or Joseph, what do we feel, and think? When every place of rest is full; how do we feel? When finally we are offered a refuge in an area where normally animals sleep; how do we feel? When the joy of birth hits us and we lay the new born boy in a cleaned out animal feeding trough; how do we feel?
There is refuge in this story. A place of safety. This is what refuge is – a place of safety and welcome; a community that offers space and welcome. Do we ever ponder what it is like to be a refugee from Syria, fleeing war and devastation or persecution, or both? What refuge do we seek? What community do we hope will offer space and welcome? What might the infant Jesus encourage us to feel, think and do?
It is my prayer this Christmas that our hearts will open in offering welcome, space and refuge to those who will seek it in our midst in the coming months. If it was the baby, or adult, Jesus I think we would say, ‘Welcome’. I think he bids us say ‘Welcome’ to those who have suffered like him.