Recently, for example, I was at a Church dinner in Sydney. It was a congregationally based dinner, about 100 people there sitting down for a beautiful meal, a bit of entertainment and a bit of a presidential pep talk. But we figured out later on that there were 17 different nationalities represented at that dinner. It was such a wonderful evening and I realised that what was holding everyone together, what we all had in common, was this sense of being held together in the love of God in Christ. It was a very powerful experience; a great vision of the universal Church and also a great sneak preview of the kingdom of God.
It shouldn't really be that surprising as we approach Christmas and ponder the story of the heart of Christmas, we shouldn't be surprised that the Church itself can represent the whole of creation.
In our house at the moment we are getting ready for Christmas and just today I got out our little nativity set to start to set the scene. Just looking at that simple little scene recreated in the little figurines, the multi cultural character of that event is very clear.
There we have the baby Jesus; a Jewish baby and his Jewish parents, presumably the shepherds were Jewish as well. Then in some versions of the story we have the wise men coming across from the East, pagan astrologists. So what diversity gathers around that crib according to the old story.
It's not just ethnic diversity, but cultural, social and religious. In some of the accounts of the story the animals feature. There are of course the angelic messengers. There's even a celestial body with that hovering star. The symbolism is so powerful that in this one that we acclaim as Emanuel God with us, all of humanity, in fact all of creation, has a place in the household of God.
So in the face of all that can divide us, in the Church, in the world and in creation itself, this Christmas, let's consider as we draw closer to Christ in worship and praise, that we draw closer to one another as well.
Glory to God in the highest and peace amongst all on earth. I hope you have a very happy and holy Christmas.
President, National Assembly
Uniting Church in Australia