The following is an article that Fr. Owen wrote for the Parish Magazine for Brixton in the December 2016 Issue.
OF BRIXTON AND YEALMPTON ST. MARY'S PARISH CHURCH, BRIXTON
The Advent and Christmas season is not meant to create stress, but we seem to be under pressure for all sorts of reasons - work, mental and physical health, money, relationships, poverty, wealth, loneliness, and the list is endless depending on your personal circumstance. All these pressures can have a very negative effect on the quality of our lives resulting in us waiting for Christmas to be over so that we can get on with normal life. Christianity was never meant to be like this.
Advent and Christmas, like Easter and the other great religious festivals of the major religions of the world, are meant to be about each of us being closer to God and each other - which is about 'being' as a verb rather than an endless cycle of 'doing'.
"What are you doing for Christmas?" we ask each other. The answer for many seems to be about an increased level of activity that we know we would rather not have.
How do we ask each other about our being closer to God and each other?
Without realising it, we seem to be seeking relationships in different ways - through our smart phones, social mediums, voyeuristic reality tv shows and the soaps, among other addictions. Now I participate in some of these activities but I am too busy in church matters to be addicted to them. But work becomes addictive too - it crowds out our other important aspects of life.
St Benedict of Nursia developed a rule of life (from St Basil's rule) for his monks (c. 540 AD). The rule was not harsh but provided a prudent balance of public and personal prayer, work, spiritual study and leisure. Despite the rule being general it was tweaked for individual strengths and weaknesses. In the last few decades there has been a growing interest in Benedictine spirituality in areas such as business, education, the churches and in personal development.
It is about balancing our lives. In businesses we should be aware of the quality of the lives of our workers, from top to bottom. Most people would benefit from developing a healthy balance of work, leisure (or study) and spirituality where each dimension of our lives is given space to flourish without dominating the other dimensions. When I am out and about I see drivers, schoolchildren, parents, people from all walks of life responding to the anxiety caused by our social media. Friends and lovers sit opposite each in restaurants reading texts and responding to absent friends and family, while disengaging with those they are with. 'Being' seems to have become 'doing'.
The signposts of the major world faiths, such as Christmas, are reminders for us to STOP! Reflect on the deeper meaning of the festival, what does it mean for me? If nothing, then you are avoiding it because being with ourselves and God alone can be disturbing, even frightening, for a time.
Christmas, for mature Christians, is about God not only being with us in the form of Jesus, it is about God choosing to be human within and through Mary, who represents all humanity - you and me! God is in all of us, waiting to be born in us spiritually so that we can be with God as intimately as is humanly possible.
May God be born in your life this Christmas!