2012 Christmas Messages from Australian Church Leaders

Discovering God with us  “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near.” (Philippians 4.4-5)  Christmas is a time to rejoice and look at the world with fresh eyes. We see signs all around that remind us how Jesus was born inBethlehem. Nativity scenes are seen at community carol services, school plays and in churches. These signs help us discover God with us.  After hearing the message of the angels on the hills outsideBethlehemthe shepherds responded;

“Let us go now toBethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. (Luke 2:15-16)  They discovered not only that the Lord is near but that God in Jesus was there embracing the frailty of humanity. The Christmas message is discovering God with us and in Jesus’ life we see God’s love and desire for justice and peace.

The National Council of Churches inAustralia wishes everyone a Merry Christmas and our prayer is for justice and peace to fill the world.  The Reverend Tara Curlewis, General Secretary National Council of Churches in Australia 

Anglican Church of Australia –  The future is coming to birth  

The story of Christ’s birth powerfully engages our imaginations.  Wise men make a long journey by the leading of a star.  Shepherds praise God, angels sing, and the glory of the Lord shines around.  In a manger and in great humility lies the Christ child, born of Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit.   We are reminded that, then as now, God enters into history to bring new life and hope.  Even on the margins of the world and in obscurity—as inBethlehem—God’s future is always coming to birth by the power of the Spirit.  As King Herod found, this is a power that the rulers of the world can neither master nor resist.   

It is easy to lose heart when we look upon our world.  It seems society has become habitually cynical and mistrustful, our public discourse thin and impoverished.  So often we feel exhausted by endless marketing and material consumption.  We are thirsting for a new spirit—new ideas, new generosity and a new gratitude for all we have and are.

Christmas is the time for new imagination.  Can we imagine that, even now—perhaps in obscurity—God’s future is coming to birth by the power of the Spirit?  The renewal of our society and our own lives may be nearer than we thought.  Let us discern its coming and greet it with great joy and gladness. Archbishop Dr Phillip Aspinall, Primate Anglican Church of Australia

Catholic Church in Australia

Christmas brings joy because our God has come to us in Jesus.  This shows that human nature is gifted and noble.  We can rise from the everyday challenges to be there for others because God loves each of us personally.  He chose to be one of us.  God has chosen us because he loves us.  He asks us to share that love.  My prayer this Christmas is that we will see beyond our present challenges to the joy and hope that we are called to bring to others because God has come, the Light of the world, leaving behind the darkness of uncertainty and failure.  God has come to save us.  Archbishop Denis J Hart, President
Australian Catholic Bishops Conference

Churches of Christ in Australia

The Church is never more human when its failings are put into the spotlight.  This Christmas we remember the Christ-child, and also those children and youth who have been sexually abused.  It is a juxtaposition that many of us will not feel comfortable about.

Does the Gospel speak into this juxtaposition? Matthew reminds us that through Christ, God has entered into this world as the “Immanuel…’God with us’.” (Matthew 1:23).  However, this event is accompanied by the powerful seeking to cling to power.  Two horrific events occur: first, the Christ-child becomes a refugee with his parents, fleeing toEgypt, fleeing the powerful.  Then King Herod, in a desperate attempt to hold on to power, massacres children inBethlehem, hoping that he has eliminated the Christ-child in the process.

This Christmas, there is a message for the Church as a whole in this stark narrative.  The Christ who we identify with is vulnerable, fragile, fleeing hostile powers: a refugee.  Yet, too often in the past, the Church has wielded power badly.  The Church has at times ruined lives and caused “weeping and great mourning”, and by ignoring or sweeping the issues under the carpet, we are not allowing people “to be comforted” (Matthew 2:18). There is hope for the Church, however, if it renounces power plays and seeks to be vulnerable through righting the wrongs of the past. In doing that, the Church may be able partially restore lives that it has wronged, and give hope to those who are mourning.

Craig Brown, Federal Coordinator Churches of Christ in Australia
Coptic Orthodox Church –Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ 2012 

Our living Christ shines upon us with the light of His birth and tells us, “It is I; do not be afraid.”  (John 6:20); “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20).  No matter how profound the darkness surrounding us is, we don’t fear, for Isaiah the Prophet prophesised, “The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and those who sat in the region and shadow of death, light has dawned.”  (Matthew 4:16).  It is the light of our Lord Christ, who said, “I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness.”  (John 12:46).  My Beloved, the Gospel of St. Matthew reminds us of the prophecy of Isaiah the Prophet, “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, which is translated, ‘God with us’.”  (Matthew 1:23).  Regarding the goal of this prophecy, St. Cyril of Alexandria said, “the goal is that truly He is like us and that He sanctified our nature.”

God with us, but are we with Him?  God became like us, but have we become like Him?  He has come to us, but have we returned to Him?  Indeed, St. Gregory the Theologian said, “Christ is born, glorify Him.  Christ from heaven, go out to meet Him.  Christ from earth, exalt Him.”  

God with us, for He grants us His peace, which surpasses all understanding and He is the One saying, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.  Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”  (John 14:27).  May our Lord Jesus Christ bless and protect our Nation Australia, its people and its government. May the peace of Christ fill the hearts and lives of all. Bishop Daniel Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of Sydney & Affiliated Regions

Lutheran Church of Australia

We are strange creatures. We may go through life enjoying much goodness. We may have jobs, family and health. Sometimes we may spend time and ponder our concerns for the world which we leave to our children and grandchildren. The famines, the wars, the unrest and substance abuse in our own society may occupy some of our thinking.

Then suddenly we are confronted with our own lives hanging in the balance. We realise we have never really faced what comes next.  Christmas begins the great news that a child is born into time to give his life and to break open death so it no longer has the final word.

The Saviour’s name is Jesus Christ. Come, let us worship him.  The Reverend Dr Mike Semmler, President Lutheran Church of Australia
The Salvation Army – Where is God?

I sometimes hear the question asked “Where is God?” This question is often asked during times of sickness, tragedy, death, crises in the lives of individuals and families, and natural disasters.  Emmanuel is one of my favourite names given to Jesus. But wasn’t God always with us? Why did we need Jesus’ birth to tell us God is with us? He was in the beginning with God and he is life everlasting. Isn’t God always with us?

Why did the shepherds need to visit the manager? Why did the wise men fall down and worship? Why did Mary ponder all things in her heart? Why do we still celebrate the birth of Christ?  Because we still need God with us. We need to be in an intimate relationship with Him. He longs to be with us and within us and He completes us. Without Him we are nothing. ‘For in him we live, and move, and have our being.’ Acts 17:28

O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us, Our Lord Emmanuel.

James Condon, Commissioner   The Salvation Army Australia Eastern  Territory                   

Uniting Church in Australia  

At Christmas we celebrate the birth of Jesus, who came “that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10.10). The 13th Assembly of theUnitingChurch, held in July this year, took that word of promise as its theme: Life Overflowing.

That abundance of Life contrasts with the kind of abundance that many Australians are all too familiar with – the kind that leaves us cluttered, bloated and burnt out, at odds with each other and entwined in unjust, unsustainable economic systems.  By contrast, abundance of Life is expressed in love and friendship, in generosity to neighbours in need, in hospitality to strangers, in compassion for all who are struggling or hurt – the things that make for reconciliation, justice and peace.

I ask that we all take a moment at our Christmas tables to remember those who are alone, or confined in our prisons or detention centres, or trying to maintain dignity and confidence in “prescribed communities” under the Stronger Futures legislation. I pray that this year our Christmas is not overflowing with things and obligations, but overflowing with Life.  The Reverend Professor Andrew Dutney, President Uniting Church in Australia

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