Monday, December 19, 2011

Carol Service Homily 2011


Apparently, the Scientists in Cern in Switzerland have now got the evidence they need to prove the existence of what is called the "Higgs boson", the basic building block of matter, and therefore everything in the universe. Journalists like to call it "The God Particle", the origin of everything.

We could therefore rewrite today's Gospel:

In the beginning was the Higgs boson:
and the Higgs boson was the God particle.
Through it all things came to be,
not one thing had its being but through it.
All that came to be had life through it ...

I could go on.

If you are the kind of person who believes in science, then no doubt this is very exciting. If you are the kind of person who believes that science has all the answers and has made religious belief and religious explanations of the world unnecessary, then no doubt you feel vindicated.

Yes, it is important stuff, a sure example of the extraordinary ingenuity of humanity in formulating such theories and making such discoveries.

But let's not miss the point.

Scientific discovery is one thing. It gives explanations, causation, but it does not uncover motives and purposes.

When I changed that reading, I had to make some subtle changes. I had to get rid of the word "with", and change the "he"s to "it". I had to remove all idea of relationship, all idea of dependence, all sense of hope. I had to remove the personal and make it completely impersonal. I had to remove all sense of purpose, and substitute the mechanical. 
If science is to be an explanation of everything, then we have to do without any sense of meaning or purpose in the world. If we lay bear the mechanism, then all that is left is machinery.

The Gospel reading tells a very different tale. It tells us not how the world came to be - neither does the book of Genesis for that matter - but it tells us that the universe has purpose, the Word has meaning, and that such things as love, and loyalty, honesty and integrity, the powers that bind us together throughout our lives, the forces that confirm our deep intuition of the immortality of the soul, the values that underpin our hope in a greater and almighty power, these are much more than merely the movement of genes, but the force that gives life and light to the universe.

When we hear the words "In the beginning was the Word" - when we celebrate the Christmas story in all its beauty and charm - we are being told that life has a purpose, The Word has Meaning, and however important the Boson may be (and it is) what binds the world together is not a particle but a loving heart.


(Image from the Daily Mail - An LHC image of a Higgs boson decaying into two jets of hadrons and two electrons). 

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