Grasping The Message of Hope, Joy and Peace
A recent headline in the paper was “Kids bring Christmas Message”. It is amazing how in the lead up to Christmas we often look to children to discover the Christmas message. Children bring the first Christmas alive through their pageant presentations with angels singing, shepherds watching and Mary and Joseph finding no room in the Inn. These aspects of the first Christmas are not the message but merely pointers to the portion of the Christmas message that is hardest to grasp is that God brings Hope Joy and Peace for the world. God shares our humanity as Jesus is born in Bethlehem. God is with us Emmanuel.
The Christmas message embraces a hope for our world where people live in peace. A world where there is no more oppressive regimes, no more power struggles and war, no more poverty, no more discrimination, no more homelessness.
This Christmas may we all thank God for the Hope that is given, the Peace we can know, Love we can share and the Joy that fills our hearts.
The National Council of Churches in Australia extends a Christmas greeting to the churches and the Australian community. May the peace proclaimed on the hills outside Bethlehem fill our hearts, our worship our community and our world.
The Reverend Tara Curlewis, General Secretary
National Council of Churches in Australia
(NB. In the Western Church, Christmas is celebrated on December 25. Most Orthodox Churches will celebrate the Feast of the Nativity on January 7.)
Anglican Church of Australia
This year we have again been reminded of the fragility of life. Natural disasters and conflicts around the world, including the Victorian bushfires which caused such destruction and loss of life, show all too clearly that life cannot be taken for granted. The global economy continues to stagger, and although there are signs of recovery interest rates are now rising and many families remain uncertain about the future. Hope seems hard to come by.
The Palestine of Jesus’ day was also a place of war, of occupation, of hardship and uncertainty. Hope was hard to come by then, too. It was in this setting that the Christmas events occurred.
God came among us as a vulnerable child. Christmas speaks of a God who does not abandon us, even in the dark times.
We celebrate Christmas, not just to remember an event which occurred 2000 years ago. The annual celebration reminds us that the God who came among us then remains among us now. So we continue to hope even when hope seems foolish.
Each Christmas we celebrate not just the birth of a child but the birth of hope.
Archbishop Dr Phillip Aspinall, Primate
Anglican Church of Australia
Armenian Apostolic Church
Another year has passed in our lives, a year filled with highs and lows as individuals and as nations.
What expectations and outlook do we have for the year ahead? For the Christian world, the new year is symbolised by the Glorious Birth and Theophany of Our Lord Jesus Christ and so our expectations and hopes should already be fulfilled with the events 2010 years ago.
The Nativity is not just a story or scene from a book. It is a certainty that is entrenched in our lives in which we find heavenly wisdom, understanding and purpose.
At the manger in Bethlehem the heavenly hosts heralded “Glory to God in the highest, peace on earth, goodwill to men”. As the message was received and followed then so too should it resonate in us today.
Christmas is more than a time for presents, special fare and merriment. It is a time for personal reflection and for every Christian to recommit to a life in Christ. Individuals, nations and governments now more than ever need the presence of God to establish amity, goodwill and harmony throughout the world.
This Christmas, let us pray together for world enlightenment as we proclaim – “Christ is born and revealed. Blessed is the revelation of Christ.”
Archbishop Aghan Baliozian, Primate
Diocese of the Armenian Church of Australia and New Zealand
Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East
“For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:11 (NKJV)
To our beloved brothers in the Lord, honorable Prelates; elected clergymen and all our brothers and sisters in Christ:
Prayers and blessings receive:
On the occasion of the Holy Feast of the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ we take this opportunity to extend our Episcopal greetings to the faithful sons and daughters of the National Council of Churches in Australia’s member Churches, all Christians in Australia and around the world and to convey upon them our blessings.
As Christians are immersed in the joyous festivities of the Christmas season let us also keep at the forefront of our thoughts and considerations those living around the world who face daily the scourge of poverty, hunger, destitution and persecution.
It is the duty of every Christian to offer the hand of aide and assistance and work to alleviate suffering and injustice in our world. As always we continue to pray for an end to the suffering of all peoples, in whatever situation they find themselves.
In particular we ask that our brothers and sisters in the member churches of the NCCA keep in their thoughts and prayers the Assyrian Christians of Iraq who continue to face persecution in their homeland. It is disheartening that only one week before we celebrate the Nativity of our Lord and Saviour, that a number of churches were yet again bombed in Iraq. May the peace, love and goodwill which is at the core of our Lord’s eternal message this year reign supreme.
May the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all, forever and ever: Amen.
His Beatitude Mar Meelis Zaia AM, Metropolitan
Archdiocese of Australia and New Zealand, Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East
Catholic Church in Australia
Pope Benedict XVI has said that it’s amazing how the feast of Christmas captures the imagination of people everywhere and in world terms it figures more prominently than even Easter. Why is this so? It’s because of the great mystery of birth and the fact that every birth introduces new life into the history of the world.
With every new life there are new possibilities for men and women everywhere. Whilst this is true of every birth we know that in our heart of hearts it is the great truth of the birth of our Lord: his birth, as we pray in one of our prayers, is the dawn of our redemption, the moment of recreation when peace overwhelms hatred and life swallows death. I think that all of this is reflected in a particularly beautiful way this year in the story of the two little girls who were brought to Australia in order to be given a new life.
The smiles of Krishna and Trishna after their miraculous separation have brought great joy and hope to people all over the world. The twins’ journey from the orphanage in Bangladesh to the triumphant moment of separation at the hospital in Melbourne is a wonderful symbol of the regeneration of life that is given to us through the birth of Jesus Christ. It is an experience which touches our hearts and reveals to us the presence of God in our daily living.
The pattern of regeneration that began with the birth of Christ is what gives meaning and direction to our lives, not as a burden but as a response to the graciousness of God. This Christmas, let the faces of Krishna and Trishna be a constant reminder to us of God’s love for us and inspire us to spread “peace and goodwill to all”.
Archbishop Philip Wilson, President
Australian Catholic Bishops Conference
Churches of Christ in Australia
We are a world that is hungry for news. The news of the day grabs our attention and our moods.
One of the startling aspects about the birth of Christ is the way it was proclaimed: "But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord’." (Luke 2:10-11)
Christ is good news. Two thousand years ago God the Father looked at the world and decided that we needed a Saviour. And so He gave us His Son – an act of intimate and loving sacrifice, not of talk, not of postulation. He did not do a ‘Copenhagen’ and gather dignitaries for much talk and little action. God gathered the poor and the lowly as well as the mighty and gave us that which was most precious to Him and most needed by us. Christ – the manifestation of the love and compassion of God – is good news indeed.
Christ’s birth is also good news for all the people. It is not just a gift of personal salvation, but an offer of redemption for all of our problems and systems. This good news should flow out of individuals and become good news for society. This gift of cannot be God constricted by time and culture and place. It was for all people for all time. Christ is not just good news for the Church, or for those who have their act together, but He is good news for us all. Whatever our culture, politics, circumstances or faith, Jesus Christ is good news for all the people.
This Christmas, let us remember the need for good news for all the people. As we wrestle with the critical issue of climate change, let us pray that the example of Christ may stir the hearts of our leaders as well as us: to do what we can to present good news for all the people, not just for us, or those like us, but for all.
May your Christmas be filled with the good news of Jesus Christ.
Craig Brown, Federal Coordinator
Churches of Christ in Australia
The Congregational Federation
With childlike anticipation we look forward in hope and expectation that something exciting and something new may happen.
God’s coming into the world fills us with a renewed wonder, awe and expectation of his intervention for the good of all creation.
Poverty and deprivation, oppression and injustice, death and destruction accompany our journey of life and faith, so we constantly nurture our longing for a grace-filled and truth-filled world. The Christmas Message resounds with the affirmation of that hope.
The world has this year, yet again, experienced the elusiveness of peace in Afghanistan, Iraq and other countries, devastation and destructiveness brought about by ‘natural’ disasters, political repression, economic injustice, religious fundamentalism, exploitation of natural resources and the abuse of the environment. One week away from Christmas 2009 we have witnessed the failure of the Copenhagen summit by reason of national and business self-interests and indifference to the needs of the entire world population, particularly the needs of the peoples of under-developed countries and of those nations of the Pacific, the Marshall Islands and Tuvalu among them, which face annihilation.
Yet amidst the hardships and harshness of life and living, let us take heart from the knowledge that the “Word became flesh” signalling the in-breaking of God’s reign and the knowledge that as this is our Father’s world all kingdoms and empires will in time be overcome by our God and his Christ.
Let us enter 2010 assured of God’s faithfulness to guide and direct our work and witness in the next phase of the journey.
Wishing you a joyous Christmas and a peaceful New Year.
Alan Filipaina, Moderator
The Congregational Federation of Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand
Coptic Orthodox Church
Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ 2009
Today, our souls rejoice as we celebrate the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord, God and Saviour Jesus Christ, who came to our world to grant peace to the world and goodwill and joy to its inhabitants. Therefore, at His birth, the angels sang, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.” (Luke 2:14).
Peace was granted to the world and goodwill to its inhabitants, because the enmity ended and the middle wall of separation was broken. To the earth that was cursed and its inhabitants, who have sinned, a great light has shone, as it is written, “The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light and upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.” (Matthew 4:16).
May Christ our Lord, born in Bethlehem, bless and protect our beloved country Australia, its people and its government.
May His glorious light, which beamed brightly from Bethlehem, fill your hearts and minds, lives and homes with all grace and peace.
Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of Sydney & Affiliated Regions
Lutheran Church of Australia
Don’t knock the general Christmas cheer and good wishes at this time of the year.
Even though it is not the whole story, at very least it shows a glimpse of what we have been designed to do. That is, to give of ourselves for others.
Christmas is God giving himself to us. Our celebration is specific and we emphasize the humanity of Jesus Christ as he intervened in our world and submitted to being born a child in history.
To stand at that place of birth is also to stand at the cross where Jesus is the Christ taking our place and taking on our hated death.
Now he hands us life. That is worth celebrating. It also means that as we have been taken care of, we can now afford time for others and to put Christ back into Christmas.
The Reverend Dr Mike Semmler, President
Lutheran Church of Australia
Presbyterian Church of Australia
“My eyes of have seen . . .”
I’m sometimes amazed, wondering why anyone would become a Christian.
Then with humility I think again of the Holy Spirit of God, "convincing the world of sin, and righteousness and judgment" . . . "bringing to mind the life, ministry and words of the Lord Jesus.”
Now I say, “Yes, that’s the reason people turn to God, and say that Jesus Christ is Saviour. Otherwise, who would?”
For at Christmas time, what smacks us in the face at every turn is a baby, surrounded by the smell of animals (if we haven’t sanitised it too much!), and folk from mother, shepherds and kings worshipping Him. Worshipping? A baby! Calling Him, "God with us." "Saviour". Surely no!
But YES! And why?
Because then and now, God’s Spirit tells us that it’s all true. We read the Bible. We listen. We pray. And God’s Spirit presses truth upon our consciences and calls us to whisper, “My eyes have seen your salvation.”
That’s what that old fellow Simeon said when he set eyes on the baby Jesus. He had waited so long for that day. Now he knew he could die in perfect peace. God typically, had kept his promise.
That’s what Christmas is really about! A wonderful miracle. One that offers you profound peace in believing . . and a truly HAPPY CHRISTMAS that lasts beyond the 25th.
HAPPY CHRISTMAS . . and let me suggest you take your Bible and read Luke chapter 2 . . it’s all there!
The Right Reverend Robert Benn, Moderator General
Presbyterian Church of Australia
Romanian Orthodox Church
“And seeing the star they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.” (Matt. 2:10)
My dear Brothers and Sister in Christ,
We are once again greeting one another with great joy and brotherly embrace on the occasion of the great feast of the Birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. As believers in Christ and followers of his salvific commandments, we are to celebrate the Lord’s Birth with “exceeding great joy” as the wise men from the East felt when they have found the new-born baby, the Incarnate Christ. This great joy stemmed in them from their full conviction that they are encountering something beyond human understanding and above all rational knowledge. Indeed, the Incarnation of the Word of God is to the entire universe a mystery in the logical and rational sense, but it is a comprehensible reality to the believers in Him.
The beautiful Nativity hymns of the Orthodox Church tell us that, God loved us, his creation, so much and wanted to repair the bond between Him and us, by giving us the greatest gift, His Only Begotten Son. Christ’s incarnation became to us the actualization of God’s love for us. By becoming fully human, while still being fully divine, Christ was able to unite the earth with the heavens. In Him humanity was restored to its original state of unity with the Creator. Christ’s incarnation is the restoration which God so much desired for us. Christ became human for each and every one of us so we can have an easy access to the Creator in Him.
Thus, it is with exceeding great joy that we celebrate Christmas every year, bring this reality into our lives. It is the joy which comes from above for the most precious gifts of all, the Incarnate Christ. We received a gift from the Creator in the Birth of Christ which we joyfully continue to receive and accept into our hearts year after year and day after day.
May all of us, humble servants of Christ, receive Him into our hearts, into our families and our homes full of spiritual and holy joy with faith and love and may He grant us His mercies and abundant blessings for us, our families and to the entire creation who praises Him holy name.
With best wishes for a Blessed Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of Australia and New Zealand
Seventh-day Adventist Church
CHRISTMAS is for every person on earth! For the LORD is the great God, and the great King above all gods. Psalm 95:3 (NKJV)
The Jesus that was born as a humble baby in Bethlehem is that God. He is truly God who chose to come to us as one of us in order to save us – that is, to save every person on earth. As God, Jesus is King of kings. He is the rightful King of all the earth. Yet the Christmas focus, amazingly, is of a humble infant. That was a necessary beginning of the central aspect of God’s plan to save humans from their sins.
Three men of learning from eastern countries, who themselves were not Jews, understood this humble baby was born to be king. They understood that this baby was so significant that He was worthy of worship (Matthew 2:2). And yet even they did not fully understand the extent of Jesus’ Kingship.
As Jesus grew and His ministry unfolded it became more and more clear that His mission was to save all peoples. His Kingship was not just for the Jews. And Jesus promised that He would one day return. At that time He would reveal Himself as King of kings (see Revelation 19:16).
While CHRISTMAS is remembering the coming of Jesus as a baby, it is also a trigger to remember that He is coming again, as King.
So Christ was offered as a sacrifice one time to take away the sins of many people. And he will come a second time, not to offer himself for sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. Hebrews 9:28 (NCV)
Pastor Ken Vogel, General Secretary
Seventh-day Adventist Church
Serbian Orthodox Church
With humbled heart let us bow before the limitless grandeur of the magnitude of the Word of God, let us receive the all-embracing breadth of God the Logos, who did not shy away from us and our sinful human nature rather fully incarnate Himself in it for our salvation. Christ, the only true Light of this world, with the glowing warmth of the Sun of His embodied love, has embraced us in His common unity.
Today we are again witnesses of that same salvific birth of the Divine Infant, and as the shepherds day and night we must guard and prepare our hearts in place of a manager so that He can be born anew in them. As the Wise Men we shall bring forth unto Him the gold, incense and myrrh of our faith, ourselves and each other, desiring to live with Christ in the endless ages of the Kingdom which is to come. Truly, God is with us and is our only and eternal joy!
May the Divine Child bestow even upon us the Nativity light as the Sun of Righteousness and knowledge of Truth; to enlighten our minds and warm our hearts so that heaven and earth shall rejoice and in unity herald: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among persons who are according to his will! (Lk 2:14)
GOD’S PEACE — CHRIST IS BORN! TRULY, HE IS BORN!
Given in Sydney at Christmas in the Year 2009.
The Serbian Orthodox Church of Australia and New Zealand
The Salvation Army
Just as 2009 was a year of challenge and trial for many Australians, so it was for The Salvation Army.
Many Australians had to deal with the ongoing effects of drought, others faced devastating floods, thousands were impacted by major fires and most of us had to readjust our lifestyles due to the global financial crisis.
This meant that The Salvation Army was stretched to the limits assisting disaster victims, comforting the bereaved, supporting families and helping Aussies simply make ends meet on a daily basis.
However, while we did this ostensibly by providing practical, moral and emotional support to hundreds of thousands of Australians, what we were really offering was new hope.
Jesus came to give hope to a lost world, a hope we can know individually when we accept Christ and are saved. And salvation is, after all, what The Salvation Army values highest.
So, at Christmas, when we sing together ‘O Holy Night’, members of The Salvation Army sing with particular gusto the words: ‘A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices. For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.’
It is this ‘thrill of hope’ that motivates us as we move into 2010, the 130th year of our service in Australia.
Salvationists have an enduring and endearing sense of hope that is, quite simply, inexhaustible. Our hope, as one classic hymn says, is ‘built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness’.
We wish all Australians a safe and blessed 2010 — a year of new hope in Jesus’ name.
Linda Bond, Commissioner James Knaggs, Commissioner
Australia Eastern Territory Australia Southern Territory
Uniting Church in Australia
Approaching Christmas, with a worrying sense of déjà vu, I have been aware of a disturbing juxtaposition of images. The Holy Family being turned away from the inn is overlayed with child-bearing mothers in boats facing a hostile reception from our naval and coast guard vessels.
The image of a mother and child surrounded by animals and shepherds merges with images of a fearful mother with a newborn infant in a detention centre in Indonesia, Christmas Island or the Australian mainland.
The Holy Family fleeing to Egypt seeking asylum from terror, blends with images of hundreds of desperate people being turned away from our abundant shores.
The gospels record the story of a vulnerable couple seeking refuge in a strange town for the birth of their child. That child would grow to preach and practice a radical inclusivity and teach about a God whose hospitality knows no limits. Jesus would teach his followers to care for the lost, the lonely and the least; and that in so doing they would be caring for him.
This Christmas, may Christ be born in us again to soften our hearts in the exercise of compassion; to strengthen our will in the pursuit of justice for all; to sharpen our minds to distinguish truth from expediency; and to move our spirits to respond with praise, gratitude and joy to the presence of the Living God, incarnate in Jesus Christ our Lord.
The Reverend Alistair Macrae, President
Uniting Church in Australia