A favourite homiletic trope is the idea that Jesus makes all things new. It is the theme running through Rowan Williams’ last Christmas homily before he leaves Lambeth for Cambridge at the end of this year — which, of course, is close at hand! (Courtesy of the Telegraph you can read his sermon in full here.) The biggest problem for someone who today who wants to claim that Jesus makes all things new is that it is now nearly 2000 years later, and Jesus is pretty old news. Try as they might, the leaders of the church can’t transform the “news” about Jesus into news. In fact, perhaps we need to coin a new word and speak of “olds” in this case, which is reasonably thought to be what news becomes when it ceases to be new.
Nevertheless, the good archbishop does his level best to present Jesus as being fresh and new, worthy not only of our attention, but new enough to be transformative. It’s really hard, though, to be convinced, especially given the deadliness of the olds that Jesus has become. In the same newspaper (in which the ABC’s homily is printed in full) there is a report about Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, and leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, and his campaign to put a stop to the government’s plan to legalise gay marriage. He used his sermon at midnight mass, according to the report, “to accuse ministers of acting to legalise same-sex marriage in defiance of public opinion.” Not to be upstaged by the pope, Nichols’ Christmas message was like the pope’s a denunciation of gay marriage, and a reaffirmation of his church’s stand that gay marriage is unnatural and defective. (Did the pope encourage his minions to address this issue in their Christmas homilies as he was planning to do in his own? I wonder.) In another report, we hear that Nichols is urging parishioners to write to their MPs, encouraging them to defeat the bill.