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Reflection from Fr Nicholas King SJ

  • 28 December 2020

In recent weeks the government’s response to the present pandemic has led to the public declaring these decisions have abolished Christmas. That may not be quite what our leaders had in mind, but the upsurge of anger may serve as a useful reminder that, even in an allegedly secular society such as our own, Christmas performs a very important function.

But Christmas cannot, least of all in this time of crisis, just be a matter of ‘God rest ye merry, Gentlemen’ expensive presents, and groaning tables. Perhaps the thing to do is to reflect on the extraordinary story that is often read at Christmas, of Jesus’ birth, and placing in a ‘feeding trough’ all because the Emperor Augustus has pressed a button on his computer and set the whole world in motion.

The thing to notice here is that what matters to Luke is not the powerful people back in Rome, but the tiny family that they have jolted into action: Joseph and Mary and (eventually) the offspring that came to them in such unpromising circumstances when “there was no room in the dwelling-place.”

And we should also notice that other group, right on the edge of society, namely the shepherds, who, like many “key-workers” today, are working late at night; but it is to them, and not to the well-to-do, that the angel of the Lord appears, offering “good news, great joy.” We watch, entranced, as these mavericks visit the child and its parents, and “return, glorifying and praising God.”

Then we are given the key to the story; and this is how we are to read it: “Mary was keeping all these things, comparing them in her heart.” Perhaps this, rather than any kind of extravagant display, is how we are to celebrate what is bound to be a very unusual Christmas: let us “keep all these things, and compare them in our hearts.”

Scripture text: Luke 2:1-20


God our loving Father,

As we celebrate the Incarnation of your Son,

We ask for the grace to gaze at the mystery,

And, with Our Lady, to keep all these things in our hearts.

Through Christ Our Lord.


Fr Nicholas King, SJ is a Jesuit of the British Province. He was educated at Stonyhurst College, and studied Classics at St John’s College, Oxford.

He is currently Assistant Catholic Chaplain to the University of Oxford and is also responsible for the Formation of Jesuits from outside the British Province.