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Viewpoint from the Rt Revd Graham James 28/12/2012


Bishop Graham April2011+Graham Norvic:
The Rt Revd Graham James, Lord Bishop of Norwich
When I was a child I did not much enjoy going to museums.  It was before things became ‘hands on’.  Anything which wasn’t in a glass case had a sign telling you ‘Please do not touch’
dove leftSo it was quite a surprise to go to a small museum in Scotland a few years ago where there was a large table full of old tools, bones of animals, what looked like fossils of one kind or another, as well as ancient keys and things that had been washed up by the sea.  Beside the table was a large sign saying ‘Do touch’.  The children did so with some vigour but you could see that some of the adult visitors had to overcome their inhibitions
We have become a society reluctant not just to touch things in a museum but reluctant to touch each other.  There is a good reason for it.  The revelations about child abuse have shocked us all.   So it is right that there all sorts of protocols in place for teachers, social workers, clergy and everyone who comes into contact with children.  But I wonder if it has made us all a bit more inhibited with those people who need a hug or a warm embrace
Dove rightGo to church these days and you might find yourself ‘passing the peace’.  The congregation greets one another.  In a rather English way we shake hands and wish peace upon each other.  The early Christians did this ‘with a holy kiss’ as St. Paul says in one of his letters.  We are a bit more restrained.  But I remember one elderly lady enthusiastically sharing the peace with everyone around her.  I hadn’t expected this and thought she might dislike all this intimacy.  No, she told me, “since my husband died it’s the only time anyone touches me at all”
That made me think hard.  Human beings are made for touch.  It is one of our primary senses.  We are made for hugging and holding.  The point about Christmas is that God touches human life by coming and living among us.  God isn’t remote.  Jesus lived as a human child.  No baby will survive without being touched or cared for.  And for an infant the sense of touch is perhaps the keenest sense of all
Christmas is about God saying to us “Do touch”.  Approach me.  I’m reliable.  It is my gift of love which lies at the heart of this great universe.  And I know what it is to live like one of you.  Christmas is a great big divine hug.  We need it
A very Happy 2013 to you all