A Christmas Reflection from Bishop Peter Brignall

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The Right Reverend Peter Brignall, Bishop of Wrexham and Chair of CaTEW, the Trust that oversees the governance of the Bishops’ Conference, has given us a special message as we celebrate Christmas – the coming of the Christ Child, the Word Made Flesh.

Bishop Brignall takes as his inspiration, a poem by Hilaire Belloc called Courtesy.

Christmas Reflection

One of the most significant scientific revolutions to have taken place in the last 25 years and that touches the lives of us all, is the application of semiconductor diode technology. We are probably most aware of it at this time of Christmas, but equally just take it for granted – much to our loss and disadvantage. I speak of light emitting diodes – LEDs – those tiny electrical components that festoon our Christmas trees and streets and houses, creating a beauty and light that far exceeds the brightness and economy of conventional light bulbs.

Hilaire Belloc, in his poem Courtesy, describes three pictures, The Annunciation, The Visitation and The Coming of the Magi, hanging close by on a wall, presenting the virtue of courtesy in the mystery of the coming of the Christ Child. Courtesy taken to mean a gift, a kindness, a gesture, something done that far exceeds expectation of courtesy:

Of Courtesy, it is much less
Than Courage of Heart or Holiness,
Yet in my Walks it seems to me
That the Grace of God is in Courtesy.

On Monks I did in Storrington fall,
They took me straight into their Hall;
I saw Three Pictures on a wall,
And Courtesy was in them all.

The first the Annunciation;
The second the Visitation;
The third the Consolation,
Of God that was Our Lady’s Son.

The first was of St. Gabriel;
On Wings a-flame from Heaven he fell;
And as he went upon one knee
He shone with Heavenly Courtesy.

Our Lady out of Nazareth rode –
It was Her month of heavy load;
Yet was her face both great and kind,
For Courtesy was in Her Mind.

The third it was our Little Lord,
Whom all the Kings in arms adored;
He was so small you could not see
His large intent of Courtesy.

Our Lord, that was Our Lady’s Son,
Go bless you, People, one by one;
My Rhyme is written, my work is done.

It is the last two verses that my thoughts of those tiny lights and the coming of the Saviour of the world in the infant of Bethlehem come together. Especially the lines, “He was so small, you could not see his large intent of courtesy.”

Our Lord that was Our Lady’s son. The prophets, and seers of old, proclaim a message that points to Christ as the light of the world, the greatest being John the Baptist, who is acknowledged by Jesus himself as being a lamp, a light and shining, but is only a witness to the light.

Small though he is, Jesus floods the world with the Father’s glory. Angels sing his praise, shepherds come in adoration. The nations bow down in homage for this tiny child. The light of the world is the child born as Isaiah prophesied, the one called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, and whom Simeon recognised as a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people, Israel.

As we look upon each of those tiny lights this Christmas, may they remind us of the tiny child and the immeasurable intent of courtesy, the gracious gift of God for all people, that dispels the darkness of this world’s deeds and gives us the hope to live our lives in the radiant love of God, our Lord.

That was Our Lady’s son. Go bless you people, one by one.

Diocesan Messages

The Bishops of England and Wales will often make their Christmas messages and homilies available online. You can use the links below to find the Bishops’ diocesan websites.

Arundel and Brighton
East Anglia
Hexham and Newcastle