A Christmas message from Bishop Dorsey

The Rt Rev Dorsey McConnell, Acting Bishop of the Diocese of Aberdeen & Orkney, offers this Christmas message:

Beloved in the Lord

When my son was very small, sometimes on a bright afternoon, I would sit on the sofa with him beside me. He would often be in a reflective mood, chatting away in that mystical tongue which all babies understand but grownups cannot, occasionally smiling at some hidden joke. What most charmed me was the way his eyes wandered about, as though tracing the movements of something I could not see. One of our friends, a Sufi Muslim, ventured an opinion: children this young, who have so recently come from heaven, can still see the angels which are always all around us.

I want very much to believe this, that we are at all times surrounded by the Heavenly Host, that they are not just “up there” in some unreachable world, but absolutely down here as well, accompanying us in all our cares. That is the promise of the letter to the Hebrews 12:1, that we are in fact all the time in the company of a great cloud of witnesses, and I know in my heart this is true. But too often the troubles of this life cloud my vision. I want to be able to see with the eyes of heaven. What would this world look like, then?

I am sure that the parents of the infant Jesus must frequently have noticed the same thing I did, as their baby’s eyes appeared to look into mysteries they could not see. But as Jesus grew into adulthood, He still and always saw the earth, and all the creatures in it, with the eyes of heaven. Of course, at the same time, He saw them with human eyes, felt people’s sorrow, their suffering, answered their pleas for help, out of the compassion of His open heart. Yet, more than anything, He saw them with the love of the Father, saw them with all their warts and scars and at the same time saw them as they might look in the Kingdom—ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven, as the old hymn puts it. He called them to their best selves and urged them to love one another as He loved them, to love their enemies as much as their friends. On the Cross, even as his eyes closed, His Spirit still looked upon the world, and every life within it, with this same undying love.

Every one of our churches in this diocese, is the eye of Love upon the lives of those around us. People who pass by our doors, may never set foot across the threshold. Yet, the Eucharistic Presence, the hymns, the prayers, are for them as much as for us. Our calling, in all its joy, is to bring the eyes of Christ actively into the world, to see every one as God’s beloved, to imagine—as one ancient rabbi did—that before every woman, man and child there goes an angel, crying out, Make way! Behold the Image of the Most High!, then to treat them accordingly.

Of course, to begin with, we must look upon those close to us with the eyes of heaven. We might practice with those around our table in this season—the grumpy uncle, the troublesome cousin—then apply the same to those in our church, or other churches, who trouble us. We might dare to believe that, as we see with the eyes of Christ, old enmities might dissolve, love might reign in their place, and a way to peace appear. How great a gift might that be for us all this Christmas! How great a gift for us to carry into the world in the New Year.

May you and yours be richly blessed on Christmas Day and throughout the season of the Incarnation.

Faithfully your brother in the Lord

Bishop Dorsey McConnell