From the Rector
From the Rector May 12
- Written by Rev. Steve Morgan
The best measure of a man's honesty isn't his income tax return. It's the zero adjust on his bathroom scale. Arthur C. Clarke
‘War,’ a school child announced to me last week ‘is the second worst thing in the world’. Intrigued, I asked him what the worst thing was. ‘Literacy’ he replied. Well I disagree. French was my least favourite subject at school, closely followed by history.
The strange thing is that I was quite good at French. I was also fascinated by history; in fact I still am. I can bore anyone to death with my views and theories on the lasting impact of the reformation on British society. Never, ever, get me on to this subject. My teachers at school somehow managed to make a lesson about an interesting topic into an ordeal where you quickly lost the will to live.
What I and every other school child really wanted from a history lesson was blood. All the really nasty, gory bits. This is why the ‘Horrible History’ books by Terry Deary are so popular. They have great titles too: ‘The Rotten Romans’ and ‘The Vile Victorians’ are my favourites. The BBC has made the books into a television series and in a recent interview the makers of the programmes were asked why they thought they were so successful. Was it that every fact was true? No, they said. The secret to bringing history alive for children was ‘death, poo, honesty and a bit of vomit’
There is something oddly fascinating about tragedies and disasters; at least when they are viewed from a safe distance. At its worst you see this on motorways when everyone slows down to look at a car crash on the other side – we’ve all done it. But tragedies also expose the deepest feelings and motives that make us who we are. If you can identify with someone’s suffering then your heart goes out to them and you connect in the most personal way.
The oldest history book of them all is of course the bible, and there are some great stories in it, some of them truly horrible; all of them honest. I love the bible because it does not shy away from reality. It deals head on with the passion and tragedy of human life. It deals with some tricky subjects too: betrayal, lust, sacrifice and revenge to name just a few. The great biblical characters were just as prone to sin and wrong doing as any other person. What the bible does is to show how God transforms these proud and difficult individuals into a people who achieved great and noble things. You don’t have to be perfect to be Godly – just honest and a bit humble about your motives.
One of my favourite stories in the Bible is the story of Ehud: a man who was sent by God to save the ancient Israelites from the enemy Moabites by assassinating their king. It’s a story that you will never hear if you only read the recommended readings for Sunday mornings; perhaps the church thinks we are all too delicate to hear it! You can find it in Judges chapter 3.
Ehud was a left-handed man who owned a double-edged sword about a foot and a half long. He managed to gain an audience with the enemy king and smuggled his sword passed the guards despite being searched. Being a left hander had its advantages - the guards didn’t find his sword because Ehud had strapped it to his right thigh under his clothing; the guards would have searched his left side – where a right handed man would have hidden a sword.
The king was a huge fat man and when Ehud approached him he whispered into his ear that he had a secret message for his ears alone. The king sent everyone away and then, as he rose from his seat, Ehud reached with his left hand, drew the sword from his right thigh and plunged it into the king’s great belly. Even the handle sank in after the blade. Ehud did not pull the sword out, and the fat closed in over it and hid it. Ehud made his escape. After a while the king’s servants began to worry because the king hadn’t reappeared. But they didn’t dare to go into his chamber because the king liked to spend time sitting on the toilet. Judges 3 finishes the story like this ‘They waited to the point of embarrassment, but when the king did not open the doors of the room, they took a key and unlocked them. There they saw their lord fallen to the floor, dead.’ What a wonderfully horrible story – simple, honest and straight to the point. I am not sure I like the assassination approach – but God works in strange and uncomfortable ways sometimes. We must not judge the past by the standards of the present!
Do you know that the most common command in the bible is? It is not a moral command, nor does it tell you how to behave. The most common command in the bible is: ‘Fear not’. The bible is a truly honest book. If it has something to say it just gets on and says it – warts and all. It is also honest enough to know our deepest longings and fears. We all worry and we all fear things – some of these fears we admit and some we don’t. If the bible is honest enough to deal with our shortcoming, and perceptive enough to know our needs; then maybe it has some answers too.
From the Rector March 12
- Written by Rev. Steve Morgan
I love words and am endlessly fascinated by new ones. Last year over 400 new ones were added to the Oxford English dictionary. Cyberbullying appeared for the first time, as did woot, which means ‘to expresses enthusiasm or triumph’ and retweet, meaning ‘to forward a message on Twitter’. I find it fascinating how quickly our language changes and evolves.
There are some words whose job it is to give ordinary words powerful new meanings; one of the most well used of these is gate. This word was born after the Watergate scandal of the 1970s which led to the resignation of President Nixon. If you are reading a newspaper and find gate behind a familiar word, you can bet that there is a far-reaching scandal going on somewhere.
Since Watergate we have had endless gates. We had ‘Irangate’ in the 1980’ when Ronald Reagan’s government was found to have been supplying arms to Iran. ‘Iraqi dossier gate’ dogged Tony Blair’s government and then more recently we had ‘Climategate’ – caused by leaked emails from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia. Then there was a real Clanger of a scandal involving a Scandinavian prince, his wicked uncle, a Welsh train and a bear from darkest Peru – this was Oliver Postgate.
The latest scandal to hit the headlines must be soufflégate. In Early February 2012, one of the contestants on Masterchef was filmed giving a fallen soufflé to the judges. One of the judges - Greg Wallace – then appeared to be eating a perfectly risen soufflé, declaring it ‘lovely’. Now, anyone with an ounce (or gram if you want to go metric) of soufflé knowledge will tell you that once a soufflé has deflated – it stays deflated. Was the soufflé substituted? Was there a second soufflé? Was there foul play? The BBC was adamant and issued an official statement in response to a number of newspaper articles which accused it of faking scenes in the show: “Any suggestion that a Masterchef contestant was allowed several attempts to cook a soufflé after it was shown deflated and then perfectly risen is completely untrue.”
These gate scandals often get deeper and darker when people issue statements denying any wrong doing; the newspapers seem to take this as a cue to begin to dig deeper and deeper. But sometimes despite the hype there is no scandal to find. This was the case with soufflégate. It turned out that no one had really made any accusations in the first place, and the BBC had in fact received no complaints at all about the programme. The world moved on and the scandal of soufflégate just sank, deflated, into history.
Everyone loves a good scandal and it is not hard to understand why. Scandals appeal to our basest motives: they help us to feel superior at the expense of others. It is so tempting to look down on others and compare ourselves favourably to them – especially when they are people of power who have shown that they are not worthy of their position. We all do it. The trouble with a scandal – in fact the trouble with anything judgemental - is that it encourages destruction rather than creation.
Scandals breed suspicion and suspicion eventually destroys trust. It is very hard to be creative in an atmosphere of distrust. If you have a good idea, you want people to be receptive and to see the good points in it – not to tear it down and ridicule it. I often wonder how many good ideas have been lost because people were afraid of how they might be received.
The trouble of course is that trusting is risky. If you trust someone you may get hurt or someone may take advantage of you. But I think I am prepared to take the risk for the hope of something much greater. I would much rather have thee odd disappointment than live a life of constant worry and suspicion. When you trust others, more often than not they come up trumps.
Jesus once said to his disciples: “do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to their life?’ There is nothing wrong with asking difficult questions, and it is a good job that we have ways of holding those in power and authority to account, but I think I would like a world where we erred on the side of trust and hope rather than on suspicion and caution. You may get the occasional knock, but it would be a much more pleasant place to live in!
From the Rector April 12
- Written by Rev. Steve Morgan
I believe in pink. I believe that laughing is the best calorie burner. I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong. I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls. I believe that tomorrow is another day and I believe in miracles.
There are easy questions and there are hard questions; just as there are mundane answers and answers that can change the world. One of the most profound questions you can ever ask is ‘what is a shed (or a garage) for?’’ Now, as far as I am concerned, putting a car in a garage is a total waste of good garage space. Garages are for mending things in, for storing things in (tidily) and for simply being in. I think I am at my happiest when I am in the garage listening to music and pottering about with bits of wood or metal.
I remember once hearing about a Salvation Army member who desperately wanted a shed. He had given his life to working for the poor and needy and as a result had never had much time or money for himself. For years he had dreamed of having a garden shed, but had always felt this was an indulgent waste of money. When he retired from full time work his colleagues gave him what he had dreamt of for so long – a shed of his own. He died contented three years later, happy with his life’s work and content with the simple pleasures of gardening and the privilege of having a whole shed to himself. Perhaps sheds can teach us humility too.
If a shed is little David, then Goliath must surely be St Paul’s Cathedral. The youth group went to visit St Paul’s as part of their visit to St Augustine’s church in Whitton last month; it is the 10th anniversary of our link between the two parishes. Everyone was impressed by the cathedral’s magnificence and its grandeur. We had all heard about the Occupy camp outside the building as well, and I must admit I was looking forward to seeing that as much as I was to seeing the cathedral. I was impressed by how polite and well informed the protesters were; well organised and very keen not to be in the way of those visiting the cathedral. We didn’t know at the time, but the camp would only exist for two more days before it was removed by bailiffs and the police.
Another anniversary that was celebrated recently was the 25th anniversary of the first performance of Les Miserables, the longest running musical in the world. The play is set in the early 19th century and depicts the events leading up to the Paris uprising of 1832. The motivations and beliefs of those portrayed in Les Miserables are very similar to those found in the Occupy movement; there are some historical parallels too. The years leading up to the 1832 uprising saw food shortages, economic problems and a huge increase in the cost of living.
Les Miserables has captured the imagination of many people. Folk from all walks of life go to see it and feel the passion and the energy that motivated the students in Paris. Yet I wonder how many theatre goers walked back to the tube past St Paul’s and didn’t make the connection that the folk in the camp had exactly the same motives as those 180 years before. It is easy to be romantic about things that have happened in the past; less so when the reality of scruffy struggle is there right before you. The struggles of the poor and the downtrodden are very rarely romantic – they are usually filled with pain, disease and hopelessness – anything but attractive.
The Salvation Army are famous for their work with the homeless and the destitute. I remember once being with them as they went round a city late at night, seeking out homeless people and distributing blankets and food. When they had finished they quietly went back to their own homes to sleep before the working world got up. That to me is real Christian charity – unseen heroes helping those most in need for no thanks or reward.
Jesus had a real concern for the poor and spent time with people shunned by everyone else. It is sad fact that whilst most of us hate poverty; very often we end up despising the poor themselves – calling them lazy, dirty, workshy and the like. In some countries the poor are even considered to be untouchable. It is much easier to despise the poor and to blame them for their lot in life than to do something about it. Sometimes they really are to blame for their plight, but the need is still there just the same.
Jesus himself was condemned for spending time with those at the bottom of the heap. The Scribes and Pharisees criticised Jesus and his disciples for eating with tax collectors and sinners. I think Jesus made them feel deeply uncomfortable and they probably wished he would not draw attention to the plight of people they would rather forget about.
The Easter story is one of great triumph – Jesus conquers death and rises again. But it’s also a story that should challenge us. Jesus came to solve a problem and he had to suffer in order to do so. Achieving great things in one place usually means that a sacrifice has had to be made elsewhere. No matter who we are, we all have more than we need and Jesus calls us to give up more than we can afford for the sake of others. It’s a tough call, but generosity can work miracles.
From the Rector Feb 12
- Written by Rev. Steve Morgan
Faith is a passionate intuition.
Have you noticed that Easter is never on time; it is always either early or late! Easter is a movable feast and its date depends on the phases of the moon. The earliest it can be is March 22nd and the latest is April 25th. This year Easter is bang on time; it falls on April 8th which is half way between the two. The trouble is that despite Easter having made a special effort to be on time, the seasons are not being so well behaved.
For many people Easter marks the beginning of spring. Our Easter symbols tend to be about new spring life as well: bunnies, chicks, eggs and so on. This year spring began in January! I saw my first butterfly yesterday and we had a daffodil in the garden in December. It may be that winter will arrive with a vengeance by the end of January, but so far there is no sign of it – just a long wet autumn. Perhaps I wouldn’t mind so much if I hadn’t been so pleased with myself for remembering to order winter tyres back in October. That’s the sin of pride for you!
I am not sure that I really like the winter, but I do miss it. No one really knows what these increasingly warmer winters will do to our countryside either. There was a bumper crop of apples this year due to the warmer and wetter weather, but you have noticed that the mushrooms never really got going; they need the cold to trigger their growth.
The lack of winter will also have some very serious consequences. Across the country lawns will be devastated by an explosion of dandelions, but most worryingly of all, what about the sprouts? I love sprouts and you are not supposed to harvest them until after the first frost. There can be no Christmas without sprouts. I wonder if God realised where things would end up when he created the world.
The creation story in Genesis paints a picture of a world made with order and dignity.
Everything is created in sequence and makes logical sense. What would have happened if God created the fish before he created the seas! I imagine that God must have put a lot of thought into His design before He began. In fact the story reads as if God is talking to Himself and thinking through what he is going to do “let us create human beings in our own image…’ He says. Perhaps God is musing to Himself, or maybe the three parts of the trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit are deep in conversation.
Talking of thinking, I had a big struggle with Descartes at university. He was the philosopher and mathematician who came up with the famous saying ‘I think therefore I am.’ He was researching into the methods used in science and was struggling to find something that he could be absolutely and totally certain about. He decided that because he could feel himself think, he must therefore exist in order to do so. This sort of research did cause him some personal problems though. Descartes once walked into a pub and the landlady asked him if he wanted a pint. Descartes replied ‘I think not’ and promptly disappeared!
When God created us, He created us in his own image and because of this we all have the qualities and characteristics of God. We can love, we can hurt, we can feel pain and joy, and we can think. Perhaps the thoughts of God are also with us. We don’t need Descartes to tell us that we exist - we know we exist - but I think that deep down in our heart of hearts we all know that there is more to life that just existing. Within each of us there is the belief, or if not the belief, then the hope, that life has a purpose and a meaning. We just somehow know that we are part of something important and destined to make a difference. This isn’t just wishful thinking; it is the rumour of God in our souls. It is the deep seated yearning for God that comes from sharing a likeness with him.
From the Rector Jan 12
- Written by Rev. Steve Morgan
Humans are amphibians - half spirit and half animal. As spirits they belong to the eternal world, but as animals they inhabit time.
C. S. Lewis
I love marmite, in fact I like pretty much anything with a strong taste; but our family, like many others, is divided over Marmite. It gets worse if I bring out the anchovy paste. War will break out between those who love it and those who can’t stand even the sight of the Gentleman’s Relish pot. Even nations are divided over Marmite. Australians swear by their own version - Vegemite - whilst New Zealanders stick with the true stuff. Although rumour has it that since 1919 the Kiwi version - found all over the South Pacific – has a different and more subtle flavour. A subtle Marmite - I ask you!
Marmite is a truly international product. The name itself comes from the French term for a large covered pot, which is why the glass jar we get it in now is the shape it is. Mind you, Marmite can be dangerous stuff. The M1 near Sheffield was shut for a time when a lorry carrying 20 tons of it crashed and spilt its contents all over the motorway. The Environment Agency feared a catastrophe. If the Marmite had got into the local river system it would have removed the oxygen from the water and killed all the fish. I wonder how many Yorkshire Marmite lovers staged a midnight raid to fill up a saucepan or two from the precious spillage. Pity I live so far from Sheffield.
Marmite does have one very bizarre property though. If you put a couple of teaspoons into a glass and beat it senseless with a fork, after a minute or two it goes almost pure white. Try it! It is all to do with air bubbles getting into it. The water in a waterfall goes white for the same reason. I find it quite bizarre that something so sticky and black can become so runny and white. It is as if two direct opposites are contained within the same substance.
Lots of everyday phrases refer to this sort of thing – going from one emotion to its opposite: “I was so happy I could have cried” or “I laughed until it hurt”. If something is really important to us – like love - then its opposite side - hate - can also be close to the surface. There are many stories of lovers becoming enemies, or of the bitterest of rivals becoming the greatest of friends.
Jesus had two sides to him that existed in perfect harmony - he was both human and God at the same time. Sometimes one part of his character would shine through more than the other. Jesus got tired – he was human after all – and he fell asleep once on a boat. When a storm broke soon after, it was Jesus the God who got up and calmed the storm. When Jesus heard that his close friend Lazarus had died, he did what any man would do, he broke down and cried. (That’s the shortest verse in the bible by the way – ‘Jesus wept’ – just in case it comes up at a quiz!) But then the part of him that was God shone through. Jesus commanded the dead Lazarus to come out from the tomb and out he walked. Jesus was both God and Human at the same time.
We all have a spiritual side to our humanity. We usually bumble along happily with everything in tune, but sometimes one side or the other comes to the fore. We can feel intense love and affection for someone. Sometimes we can feel dreadful loss. At other times our more human side comes out. Simple pleasures like eating Marmite or feeling good after exercise are the positive side of being human. But there are more difficult things such as being in pain or being tempted by drink or drugs.
Sometimes you hear people say that to be truly holy we need to rise above the world and leave our physical selves behind. But this isn’t what Jesus taught. We don’t need to exist in a spiritual haze that has nothing to do with the world around us; we need to keep things in balance. We are both physical and spiritual beings and both sides can be good. We need to look after our bodies but at the same time remember that there is more to life that just pleasure, pain and getting stuff. We need to seek the spiritual but to do it with our feet still on the ground – perhaps even in the mud. Sometimes being human hurts – even Jesus cried. But when we embrace all the pleasure and pain of this world with our eyes focused on heaven then our souls can lift us up to places unimaginable.
From the Rector Dec 11
- Written by Rev. Steve Morgan
When we were children we were grateful to those who filled our stockings at Christmas time. Why are we not grateful to God for filling our stockings with legs?
Back in November the city of London hosted the International Cider Conference. The main aim of the conference was – rather surprisingly – to make cider ‘safer and more secure.’ Isn’t the world a wonderful place! The news is so often full of gloom and disaster with stories of cathedrals closing their doors and turning away young worshippers and yet we can still find time to ponder the future of cider. And why not; after all, what’s the point of making loads of money in the City if you can’t spend it on anything? Somebody has to make the goods we buy – why not celebrate cider?
I am a cider amateur. We have a garden full of windfall apples every year and I can’t bear to see them rot away. We try to use as many as we can, but the children and the pigs will only eat so many. Quite a lot get turned into apple juice, and some of this gets turned into cider. Over the years I have produced a number of Vicars Vintages – some better than others.
Apples have grown wild in England for millennia, but it was the Romans who introduced the practice of planting orchards. Army veterans were given plots of land to grow fruit on to encourage them to settle in England after they retired. During Viking times many monasteries grew apples and made cider – Ely was particularly famous for this. There are ancient accounts in Battle Abbey showing that cider was made there and then sold to the public. At the Rectory we are carrying on this noble ecclesiastical tradition of cider making – albeit badly.
I must admit though that I was a bit intrigued as to why cider needed to be safer and more secure. Perhaps a plot had been uncovered to steal a secret vat of volatile military grade Blackthorn. I discovered eventually that the reason for the conference was the ever increasing number of cider attacks. These were threatening not only the banking system, but the very security of our country.
Then my comfortable world shattered as reality came home to roost. I’d misheard. It was cyber, not cider. Oh well – I shall still carry on making cider and perhaps one day it will be drinkable. Mind you, if you think about it, an apple is probably the most dangerous substance on earth: it was an apple that caused all the trouble in the first place. Poor old Adam just couldn’t resist it and that one act of disobedience – the Fall – had ripples which spread throughout history. This was the reason why Jesus needed to come at Christmas to mend our relationship with God and to put the world to rights. 800 years before Jesus was born the prophet Isaiah foretold that the might and power of all the great and greedy nations of the world would be reformed by a small child bringing a message of love and forgiveness. It must have seemed laughable at the time, but Jesus’ message proved to be unstoppable. Neither sword nor persecution could overcome his message of love and peace.
On that first Christmas night 2000 years ago, the shepherds must have been totally overwhelmed. The first they knew of the events in Bethlehem was when an angel spoke to them. They were terrified of him. Then then more and more of them appeared! A great cloud of angels sang words that we sing in so many of our Christmas carols: ‘Glory to God in the highest and peace to all the earth.’ For these shepherds, watching their flocks all those years ago, peace on earth must have felt like a distant dream. They were living in an occupied country ravaged by war and poverty. But at least they had a dream; and the angels spoke of a hope that that dream might one day be realised, so they hurried to Bethlehem to see what was going on.
This is the meaning of Christmas for me. Christmas brings hope for the future despite what may seem like impossible odds. It brings hope despite the disappointments of the past. Christmas is a faith that things will get better for the poorest and for the powerless. Christmas is a faith that those of us with more will find new meaning and purpose for our lives. All those years ago, God decided that you and I were important enough for Him to make the long journey to a lowly stable just so that He could visit us. The joy and hope that Christmas brings is what makes me get up in the morning. If the creator of the universe thinks that much of me – and of you - then surely this challenges us to bring hope, charity and love to those around us.
Mary must have had a faith like this - a faith that the world would ultimately make sense and that things would improve, if not for her, then for the world around her. Despite the threat of being left alone and vulnerable, Mary believed. She believed that her own hopeless situation would end up with the world being saved by a small child. A totally impossible dream that went on to became reality.
From the Rector Nov 2011
- Written by Rev. Steve Morgan
There are only two ways to live… one is as though nothing is a miracle. . . the other is as if everything is.
About 12 years ago I went to a folk festival in Cropredy in Oxfordshire. During the final concert on the last day some special guests joined the band on the stage. It was one of those lovely balmy summers’ evenings. We sat in a field as the river Cherwell gently took its course through the fields, brushing the weeping willows as it went by. Robert Plant from Led Zepplin came onto the stage, followed by Roy Wood with his band Wizard. Wizard only had two hits: Goodbye Blackberry Way and I wish it could be Christmas every day. He did them both, complete with Father Christmas costume, even though it was mid-August. Even Tesco hadn’t started Christmas by then! We all laugh about how early Christmas comes these days and we are supposed to disapprove, but I love seeing all the Christmas stuff in the shops so early. It must be the eternal child in me but as soon as Christmas is over I am looking forward to the next one. I’d love it to be Christmas every day.
One of the consequences of Christmas starting so early is that Advent – the month of preparation before Christmas - also ends up being earlier. The old tradition was that Advent was a time of penitence, a bit like lent. No Christmas carols were sung before Christmas Day and there would have been no parties before the 25th. Everything happened afterwards and the biggest celebration of all was on twelfth night. Now of course we do things differently; we are likely to be ready for Christmas before Advent has even started. We will have arranged where we will be for Christmas or perhaps who will be coming to stay. Children will have made their lists and most of us will already have resolved that we will make a new year’s resolution to go on a diet after Christmas has past. By December 1st Christmas will be in full swing.
I like to think that November has become the modern Advent. This actually fits rather well. November begins with All Souls’ Day when we remember our loved ones who have died, Remembrance Day falls in the in the middle of it and November ends with the candlelit Advent Carol service. These are all contemplative services which challenge us to think about life, death and what it all means. These questions are at the heart of the Christmas message and just thinking about them is good preparation. The Christmas message of love and reconciliation becomes real when we take a good, long and honest look at a world which needs both. We need it ourselves too.
I love Christmas. I don’t know whether it is the sparkling lights, the smell of the Christmas tree or the family and friends that gather round. Maybe it is the memories of childhood Christmases. One thing is for certain – I am not a Christmas cynic. And yes, I’ll admit it – I like tinsel and coloured lights too!
I think Christmas is a time when it is easier to be a child again – to be open and honest. Somehow you don’t have to be cool at Christmas – you can let your hair down. In fact the coolest person ever to have existed ‘The Fonz’ from the 1970’s TV show ‘Happy Days’ – threw cool aside to read ‘The night before Christmas’ to some children. Henry Winkler – who played the Fonz (and who has just been awarded the OBE) said that when he was working out how to play the character he decided that the Fonz needed more depth than just being super cool – he needed to be kind hearted as well. “You have to ask yourself”, he said, “what happens when the Fonz is alone in his flat and takes his coat off – who is he being cool for then?”
It is easy to be a cynic, and for some people (not me!) it is probably easy to be cool. It can be much harder simply to be oneself. When you are totally honest with the world you expose your true self to criticism and ridicule, but cynics and cool folks only expose the act they put on. But being honest with oneself, maybe even being a bit naff, is very liberating. Honesty – especially honesty with oneself – was one of the most important virtues for Jesus. He once said “Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ be ‘No.’”
I think Christmas should be celebrated by everyone with the wide eyes of a small child. Jesus said that the way to heaven was to be childlike - honest, open and trusting. As we prepare for the great event to come, let’s try to have our eyes open like that. When nothing else is in the way, then all the beauty, all the sacrifice and all the tear jerking reality of a mother bearing a child in a stable becomes really real. Her child was destined to break her heart but to save the world in the process. That great truth of love is at the very heart of Christmas.