The Bishop of Cashel, Ferns & Ossory calls on Anglicans to “cool it” this Christmas, to save the planet from the effects of climate change
’m preparing these words in the midst of coverage of the huge international conference in Paris which sought to address the urgent challenge and threat caused to humanity by climate change, for much of which we are responsible ourselves.
Our planet is warming up, and it needs to be allowed to cool down before irreversible damage is done. Finding ways to achieve that cooling would be good news, Gospel indeed, particularly for the poor of the world who suffer most from the effects of global warming.
In this context the romantic traditions of Christmas are actually rather dangerous. Christmas especially as portrayed since Victorian times is all about warming up a cold world, of big fires burning on snowy nights, of frost encrusted landscapes, of people of goodwill trudging like King Wenceslas across the snow to address poverty by providing heat.
Now, although we must never neglect those still literally cold in our very midst, the wider picture is becoming the opposite to that of the Christmas cards, and in truth we have to recognise that global poverty will often be fought by combating warmth. In a sense the very iconography of Christmas needs to change, the art which characterises the season needs to challenge us to action rather than lull us into false security.
Christ came into this world to show us how to live better, to act more responsibly in our relationships with one another as well as with creation, to understand our delicate human interdependence as equals who share the image of God. The plea from the manger of Bethlehem is that we should be generous to each other, and stop robbing the poor of their future and the vulnerable of their dignity.
All this demands, for God’s sake, a willingness to ‘cool it’, to realise that we are condemning the world Christ came to save by our apparent addiction to warming it up. People in the global south grasp the message of Christmas perfectly well (and perhaps better) without the distractions of longing for a White Christmas with blazing fires. Perhaps the way they experience and illustrate Christmas, in an atmosphere already witnessing the destructive effects of too much warmth, may provide the clue to a more excellent way forward for us.
Let’s all give our descendants a proper present by reducing the warmth. Have truly a cool Christmas and therefore a happy one.