Tuesday, 23 December 2014

2014 Christmas Message

“…the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; and we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.” (John 1:14)

On behalf of the Uniting Church in Australia, I greet you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ whose birth we celebrate this day; Jesus, the incarnation of God.

Download the video message here.

 You probably know the stories – shepherds and angels, a star, a stable and the wise men.

But it’s still astonishing to me that the Almighty God entrusted the mystery of the incarnation to an ordinary teenage girl and her husband.

Delivered into the world in the usual way, with all the drama and risk inherent in childbirth, the Son of God had to be fed, washed, clothed comforted, kept safe like any vulnerable little baby.

That simple first century Jewish family had to teach him to speak, to say please and thank you, to behave himself, to share with his siblings.

But first they had to flee to Egypt, barely escaping the slaughter of children in Bethlehem.

They became an ordinary refugee family – entrusted with the mystery of the incarnation. And that’s what I’d ask you to think about today.

The revelation of the nature and will of God, the fulfilment of the hope of the world, was entrusted to the care of an ordinary refugee family.

And when, as a grown man, Jesus taught and healed and suffered and was killed, and when he was raised from the dead, it was as the child of an ordinary refugee family.

He called us to welcome the stranger, knowing a thing or two about being a stranger himself.

He commanded us to love our neighbour, knowing how essential neighbours are to daily survival, let alone peace.

He commanded us to love our enemies, knowing about being “the enemy” as well as having enemies, and how love can transform our relationships and our world.

Jesus, the child of an ordinary refugee family is being remembered and celebrated today, in a world with a record 50 million refugees, more than half of them children.

As a people blessed by wealth and peace, we Australians need to be very mindful of the needs of our neighbours who seek asylum and find ways to do more.

We also need to expect more of our political leaders.

The Uniting Church with the other Australian Christian Churches continues to speak out against the inhumane treatment of refugees and their families under the policies of successive Australian Governments.

We urge the Australian Government to increase the annual intake of refugees, and to redouble efforts to secure the safety of the thousands of new refugees throughout the world and especially in the Middle East.

In the course of this year many Christians and people of other faiths have joined together to make sure that decision-makers hear our voices on this important issue.

Over the last few months I’ve also been heartened by the number of Australian Christians reaching out in solidarity and friendship to their neighbours of the Muslim faith.

Violence and conflict elsewhere in the world is a reminder that we must always be working for peace where we live as well.

From church signs and neighbourhood parties to sharing meals or chores, I encourage you all to reach out to your neighbours of every faith or none in the year ahead.

God has given us a great bounty of cultural, linguistic and spiritual diversity to share and enjoy.

So let’s not accept or create unnecessary barriers between us and our neighbours.

Let’s make today and the year ahead a time of peace and goodwill among us all – in celebration of the birth of Jesus, the child of an ordinary refugee family and the incarnation of God.

Thank you for sharing your time with me and I wish you all a safe, happy and blessed Christmas.