‘Christmas, A Message of Hope’, a GB News special for the festive weekend – Catholic Herald

Archbishop Jerome Lloyd OSJVPosted by

The fading of Christian faith as a vital force in modern Britain is nowhere more evident than in the broadcast media; its growing coarseness and profanity, its reliance on sentimentality and its worship at the altar of the Self. Even when religious matters are mentioned or discussed, it tends to be through the lens of contemporary political preoccupations.

How refreshing, then, to see a Christmas special that is focused almost entirely on explication of the faith, on Scripture and beautiful music, and on thoughtful conversation. GBNews’ hour-long Christmas: A Message Of Hope, presented by Free Church of England cleric Calvin Robinson, is a wide-ranging programme, tackling subjects as various as the nature of hope, the need for grandeur in liturgy, the “true myth” of Father Christmas, and the inescapability of suffering in the Christian life. The guests are big hitters: Bishop Robert Barron, an enormously gifted communicator, alongside the Anglican theologian John Milbank, the ex-Anglican priest and now Catholic layman (and Herald contributor) Gavin Ashenden, and the Orthodox writer Rod Dreher. Desmond Swayne MP, a prominent Christian parliamentarian, also makes an appearance, although his interview is less centred on the Christmas theme and so feels rather detached. Their contributions are interspersed with music sung by the Brompton Oratory choir and readings from the Bible.  

The use of the sanctuary at the Oratory as a backdrop for filming caused a certain amount of controversy on social media when it was revealed a few weeks back. Without wanting to wade into that particular dispute, as a purely aesthetic proposition the setting allows a blend of intimacy and grandeur which resonates with the story of the Nativity. In that great narrative we have the helpless baby who is the king of the universe, the small town that is the focal point around which all of history must now revolve. 

One almost wishes for a longer version of the show. I would love to hear Prof Milbank expand and develop his ingenious argument for the importance of Father Christmas. In his account the man in the red suit is both a symbol of cosmic generosity and an inspiration to gratitude for God’s blessings, and a kind of reconciliation in one person of the divine truth of the Feast and the deeply-rooted human customs of midwinter, such as the Lord of Misrule, which are themselves truth-bearing insofar as they enact the pricking of human pride and the breaking down of artificial social hierarchies.

‘Christmas, A Message of Hope’, a GB News special for the festive weekend – Catholic Herald

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