Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas to you all

Merry Christmas to you all
By The Post
Tue 25 Dec. 2012, 10:10 CAT

The first Christmas celebration came unexpectedly to the participants - Mary, Joseph, shepherds, wise men - who all responded to God's message to "fear not".

It has been wisely noted that when God's messengers say "fear not" - it's time to listen, give up our fears, pray ferociously and put the future into God's hands.

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness - on them light has shined (Isaiah 9:2).

These words were spoken long ago to people living in anxiety, fear and despair, people feeling bereft of security, safety and any sense of God's presence. We hear them early on Christmas, forgetting that they were first spoken hundreds of years before the birth we celebrate. Human beings across this planet still yearn to know that a more gracious and divine reality is active and evident in our lives.

The birth we celebrate is meant for this world mired in darkness and fear, yet also becomes easier to discover in a tiny voice crying in protest over being cold, wet and hungry. We hear that cry in the demeaning of chronic poverty, behind prison bars. That flicker of hope surges as the world turns to investigate this surprising new life, one heart at a time. The light grows as hearts catch fire with the same light that illuminates the stars, pulsing hope and new life, even out of black holes.

Those who search in dark and despair, in dank dungeon and deep devastation, will find divine light given for the world. Light that will not be put out, so long as any creature remains to receive it, until and beyond the end of time. The light shines in darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it (John 1:5). Hope reigns in human hearts. And rejoice, for a child of the light is born in our midst!

This might not be the Christmas we had imagined. However, we always wonder just how Jesus would want us to celebrate his birthday? We know that Mary "pondered" and together they prayed and sought direction.

The birth of Christ challenges us to reassess our priorities, our values, our very way of life. While Christmas is undoubtedly a time of great joy, it is also an occasion for deep reflection, even an examination of conscience.
Christmas can be the time in which we learn to read the Gospel, get to know Jesus not only as the child in the manger, but as the one in whom we recognised God made man.

Christmas is a time for Christians to engage with the world. Christians shouldn't shun the world; they should engage with it.
Christians should fight poverty, but should do so out of a recognition of the supreme dignity of every human being, created in God's image and destined for eternal life. Christians work for more equitable sharing of earth's resources out of a belief that, as stewards of God's creation, we have a duty to care for the weakest and most vulnerable.

Christians oppose greed and exploitation out of a conviction that generosity and selfless love, as taught and lived by Jesus of Nazareth, are the way that leads to fullness of life.

Christian belief in the transcendent destiny of every human being gives urgency to the task of promoting peace and justice for all. Christmas should bring hope to all those who, like Jesus, live on the margins of society. Christmas should bring hope to all who are vulnerable to the changing fortunes of a precarious world. From the manger, Christ calls us to live as citizens of his heavenly kingdom, a kingdom that all people of goodwill can help to build here on earth.

But we shouldn't forget that people are not Christians because of Christmas. It is because of Easter. We wonder how many people understand what we are talking about!

We are certain that the only reason we know anything about Jesus' birth, or earthly ministry of healing the sick and feeding the poor, centres upon what the first followers experienced after Jesus had died on the cross. Something remarkable happened. Something marvelous occurred. Something miraculous, and maybe even a little scary, was witnessed by the first followers of Jesus.

We are talking about the ministry of the first Easter, when Jesus was resurrected from the dead. Whatever happened at the resurrection and subsequent days shook people to the core. This experience encouraged them to talk and eventually write about a Jesus who had defeated death and appeared to many people afterwards. For these followers, as for later generations, who claim that the spirit of Jesus continued to empower, comfort and reconcile with the divine, Jesus is much more than a nice man who did nice things for people long ago. Jesus is more than a baby born to Mary in a manger.

For some, baby Jesus will remain ancient history, a myth or a fairy tale; however for others, the risen Jesus is God's gift of abundant life, peace, justice and forgiveness now and forever. It is a gift that is experienced rather than read about, talked about, bought or sold.

And in an era where abundant life, peace, justice and forgiveness seem in short supply, our hope is that more people will experience this type of gift. Merry Christmas to you all.

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