ERIC HODGENS. The True Christmas Spirit Embraces the New.

Christmas celebrates new life – and a new world order. It is news of joy for all the people. Nervous or not, we are called to embrace the new and add it to our treasure.

Behold, I am doing a new thing;
    now it springs forth, do you not see it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
    and rivers in the desert. (Isaiah 43:19)

That’s how Isaiah hoped the future would be for his Israelite people, devastated by decades of exile in Babylon. Finally, they were going back home – to start a new life.

The hard-hearted don’t like the new. That’s the mentality Jesus confronted. No work was allowed on the sabbath. Strictly speaking, healing the man’s withered arm was work. The scribe and pharisees were strict on the law and didn’t like it. Don’t break the bounds.

Jesus’ response: ‘Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm?’ “Jesus looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart.” (Mark 3:5)

Ezekiel has the answer: “A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26)

For them the law was the law! But for Jesus the sabbath is made for man, not man for the sabbath.

Launch into the deep. That’s the authentic Christian mentality. Nothing ventured, nothing gained can be a Christian motto.

Christopher Columbus and James Cook harnessed their anxieties, embraced the new and found the Americas and the Great South Land.

Galileo and Newton embraced a new understanding of the world. Descartes, Rousseau, Voltaire and Montesquieu pioneered new ways of thinking that produced a new world order.

The luddites smashed the looms but got left behind. New knowledge leads to a transformed world.

Christianity’s early sacred authors are heavily into the new. Paul, the earliest writer, saw a world renewed in Christ. Therefore, “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

The last of the New Testament writers has the same vision”. “The one on the throne says: ‘Behold I make all things new’” (Rev 21:5)

Embracing the new is part of the Christian DNA. But centuries at the guiding helm of Christendom has deadened that instinct in the halls of church power. Be safe: maximise risk aversion. The fortress protects, but at the price of lost opportunity. The rule of law, though protective, can also oppress and deprive. And it will – if it is not constantly under review to keep up with the new.

Factionalism and identity politics dominate the political scene. Renewables versus coal. Climate change is a fake. Lies are alternative facts. If you are not with us, you are against us. They reject new knowledge.

Political parties are factionalised within. Spite wins at the expense of the common good. Narcissism’s rule book says look after me and beggar the rest. Reaction is the name of the game. New social trends are dismissed. This is driving both left and right to extremes. The sensible middle, though the biggest group, is marginalized.

The church scene mirrors the political scene as it always does. The most pastoral pope in centuries is vilified by his own. A powerful hierarchy, firmly set on its three foundations of dogmatism, moralism and clericalism, wants no erosion of its power. It sticks to its guns. For them adjusting the rules is the start of a slippery slope.

Meanwhile Pope Francis thinks life is more complex and circumstances alter cases.

And a bemused younger generation sees old men in peculiar gear talking largely to themselves and turn away. They live in a new world to which the old men are irrelevant.

Christmas is nothing if not new. The authentic Christian sees a new world opening and turns joyfully to embrace it.

Eric Hodgens is a Melbourne Catholic priest now living in retirement.


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5 Responses to ERIC HODGENS. The True Christmas Spirit Embraces the New.

  1. I don’t quite fully agree Eric – you and I (and Phil Ruthven and Tony Doherty and Val Noone and many old others) and a few other old men are right up there at the cutting edge of understanding where the world ought to be going, and doing our best to get it there. You prophet in the wilderness, you.

  2. Angela Dupuche says:

    Eric once again spot on! You give me hope for the next generation! I can give this to my children and grandchildren so they know not everyone in the church has abandoned them.

  3. Phil Ruthven says:

    One of the most timely messages in decades with “old men” with yesterday’s attitudes and habits – masquerading as values – in most of our institutions such as politics, churches and business, doing unbelievable damage.

    If only those kings were dead so we could say long live the (new ) kings.
    Hopefully coming

  4. Graham English says:

    The church scene mirrors the political scene. Ugh! The most pastoral pope in centuries is vilified by his own. A powerful hierarchy, firmly set on its three foundations of dogmatism, moralism and clericalism, wants no erosion of its power and some of them think winning a point in the culture wars is enough for a Christmas message to the flock. They call for religious freedom. Like a dog chasing a car they would not know what to do if they caught it.

  5. mary tehan says:

    Thank you Fr Eric for this message of hope … something sorely needed at this point in history and planetary evolution! Even our human skin renews itself every 7 years – transitions (much more profound than change) always start from the edges until the middle breaks open and lets it in (just watch an ovum and sperm converge and integrate). The “something new” you write of here is like a root that is fashioning a plant and flower … it starts in the dark, away from sight. The one factor that many people seem to miss in this unfolding, is that the “soil” and “environment” need to be life-giving and welcoming of it’s presence and growth for its very survival. So often, the vitality is not seen or felt in the middle until it becomes more tangible or people are more attuned to what to look for and where … in its vulnerability, the plant or flower can be crushed at this point … stomped all over, and destined to be destroyed. As Leonard Cohen so poignantly sang … the light comes through the crack. Let’s focus on the cracks and nurture and nourish the soil and environment for it to flourish … and be ever so gentle with it’s verdant potential. May God let “new life” unfold in abundance.

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