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Reflection from

“Our Aboriginal culture has taught us to be still and to wait. We do not try to hurry things up. We let them follow their natural course – like the seasons. We watch the moon in each of its phases. We wait for the rain to fill our rivers and water the thirsty earth…

Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann, 2021 Senior Australian of the Year

When twilight comes, we prepare for the night. At dawn we rise with the sun.

We watch the bush foods and wait for them to ripen before we gather them. We wait for our young people as they grow, stage by stage, through their initiation ceremonies. When a relation dies, we wait a long time with the sorrow. We own our grief and allow it to heal slowly.

We wait for the right time for our ceremonies and our meetings. The right people must be present. Everything must be done in the proper way. Careful preparations must be made. We don’t mind waiting, because we want things to be done with care. Sometimes many hours will be spent on painting the body before an important ceremony.

We don’t like to hurry. There is nothing more important than what we are attending to. There is nothing more urgent that we must hurry away for.

We wait on God, too. His time is the right time. We wait for him to make his word clear to us. We don’t worry. We know that in time and in the spirit of dadirri (that deep listening and quiet stillness) his way will be clear.

We are River people. We cannot hurry the river. We have to move with its current and understand its ways.

We hope that the people of Australia will wait. Not so much waiting for us – to catch up – but waiting with us, as we find our pace in this world…Our culture is different. We are asking our fellow Australians to take time to know us; to be still and to listen to us…”


A beautiful reflection by Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann, Aboriginal activist, educator, artist and 2021 Senior Australian of the Year.

This excerpt is from a longer reflection by Miriam-Rose on dadirri, a spiritual practice of the Ngan’gikurunggurr and Ngen’giwumirri languages of the Aboriginal peoples of the Daly River region, focused on inner, deep listening and quiet, still awareness.

Read the full version:

Reproduced with permission from Miriam Rose Foundation

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Day of Mourning

22 January 2023 (Sunday before Australia Day)

Introduction by Rev Sharon Hollis, President Uniting Church in Australia, and Rev Mark Kickett, Interim National Chair Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress

Since 2019 the Uniting Church has marked a Day of Mourning to reflect on the dispossession of Australia’s First Peoples and the ongoing injustices faced by First Nations people in this land. For those of us who are Second Peoples from many lands, we lament that we were and remain complicit.

This observance arises from a request from the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC) which was endorsed by the 15th Assembly in 2018. The declaration of the Sunday before Australia/Survival/Invasion Day as a Day of Mourning is an expression of the Uniting Church’s commitment to justice and truth-telling which is required of us by the Covenant we have made and reaffirmed with UAICC.

Again in 2023, we invite you on or around Sunday 22 January to hold worship services that reflect on the effects of invasion and colonisation on First Peoples. These resources are provided to help you in your marking of the Day of Mourning.

In marking a day of mourning, we hear the promise of Jesus that the truth will set us free. The Day of Mourning invites us to listen to the truth of the effects of colonisation and racism on First Peoples and to hope that in confronting this truth we will discover ways to create communities of justice and healing.

In marking the Day of Mourning, we live into our covenant relationship to stand together with, and listen to, the wisdom of First Nations people in their struggle for justice. We affirm the sovereignty of First Peoples and honour their culture and their connection to country.

We reaffirm our understanding that First Peoples encountered the Creator God long before colonisation. We confess and seek forgiveness for the dispossession and violence against First Peoples. We lament our part, and we recommit to justice and truth-telling.
We encourage you to use this opportunity to make a connection with UAICC or First Peoples in your local community. You might also like to take this opportunity to begin a conversation about how you will continue to live out the covenant as a faith community and explore the Assembly’s Living The Covenant Locally resource as a way to begin or continue this journey.

As the President of the Uniting Church and the Interim National Chair of UAICC, we pray that our Church and our nation will continue on this journey of confession, truth-telling and seeking of justice and healing.

As we move into 2023 with the probability of a referendum on an Indigenous Voice to Parliament, we ask that all members of the Uniting Church inform themselves about the Uluru Statement and its vision of Voice, Treaty, Truth. We ask that you conduct conversations about the Voice with respect, and with the impact of whatever you say on First Peoples always at the forefront of your mind. We pray that this year in our nation might be moment of reckoning when we face the truth of our past and present in ways that promote healing and justice.

Grace and peace,

Rev Sharon Hollis / President Uniting Church in Australia
Rev Mark Kickett / Interim National Chair Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress

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Palm Sunday March for Refugees

(It’s weeks away from Palm Sunday, but posting this information early as an encouragement to promote the event in your congregation and community, and organise a banner if possible for your group).

Date/time: 2pm, Sunday 2nd April
Venue: State Library, corner Swanston and La Trobe Streets, Melbourne.

2018 Palm Sunday March for Refugees with leaders of faith communities holding a banner

Congregations, groups, schools and individuals are encouraged to consider joining in with this event, to call for justice for refugees.

For those participating, consider organising a banner with a simple statement and the congregation’s name, or group’s name, and organise people to walk with the banner. Alternatively, you may prefer a simple statement on the banner (like the one above) and reach out to inter-faith people in your community to join you on the Palm Sunday March for Refugees.

For many years, Christians have been part of the Palm Sunday March for Refugees to support the call for justice for refugees. Churches have done a tremendous amount to offer practical support and advocate for refugees over the years, and many churches have made statements calling for a compassionate response to refugees and asylum seekers including:

Shelter from the storm: a Uniting Church in Australia statement on asylum seeker and refugee policy

Rev Sharon Hollis, former Moderator of UCA Vic/Tas Synod, and now President Uniting Church in Australia, speaking at a 2018 Palm Sunday March. (Photo: Crosslight)

The 2023 Palm Sunday March for Refugees will call for Justice for Refugees: Permanent visas for all, Fair Processes and Income support for people who are seeking recognition as refugees.

Thousands of refugees and people seeking asylum are still in limbo waiting for certainty about their future:

  • Thousands of refugees have been waiting for up to 10 years for permanent protection – they have been on temporary TPVs and SHEV visas, bridging visas, or in community detention,  
  • Under the so-called ‘Fast Track System’ thousands have waited years to have their claims for refugee status determined, and many have been unfairly denied.  The process is neither fast or fair.  These people need a fair review.  
  • People on bridging visas have no income safety net.  Because of their short term visas they find it difficult to find permanent work. Some have no work rights at all. They have no family reunion or travel rights.   
  • People who do not have permanent visas are unable to undertake tertiary study, even if they have done all of their schooling here in Australia. Young children cannot access early childhood education and people with disabilities are being denied NDIS funding. 
  • Nearly 200 people are still held in shocking conditions on Nauru and in PNG. All those who have been evacuated from Nauru or PNG to Australia are denied any pathway to permanent protection in Australia. 
  • There are still people seeking protection who remain in immigration detention
  • Thousands of refugees are stranded in Indonesia because they have been blocked from seeking protection in Australia
  • Thousands of refugees, including Afghan refugees are desperately waiting for Australia to lift its humanitarian intake to at least 30,000 per year. 

More information about the Palm Sunday March for Refugees Contact: Marie Hapke,, 0409252673.

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Vandalism on Hindu temple

A Hindu temple in Mill Park, BAPS Swaminarayan Hindu Temple was vandalised on the night of 11 Jan 23. The Victorian police have launched an investigation. Attacks on places of religious worship is a concern for the wider community.

The VCC President and Deputy President have issued a statement.

We have become aware of the vandalism on the evening of 11th January that defaced the BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir Hindu temple in Mill Park. We deplore that a peaceful place of religious worship has been targeted in this way. We are especially concerned about the anti-Indian racial graffiti, and the provocative words that threaten the Hindu community.

We affirm our strong belief that communities of any faith tradition should be able to worship in freedom and in safety.

In this fractured world, where suspicion and division can too easily undermine peace and harmony in our community, we absolutely condemn the vandalism, and particularly the threatening nature of the comments that targets and vilifies Indian people and the Hindu community. There is no place in our vibrant multicultural, multifaith and pluralistic society for such behaviour. The majority of Australians believe that respecting religious diversity is fundamental to ensuring a strong social fabric in our democratic society.

The Victorian Council of Churches has a clear anti-racism commitment, and is concerned about any actions that have the potential to exacerbate racial, religious and societal tensions.

The actions of the vandals do not speak for the goodwill of people in the wider community. We hope justice will be served on those responsible for the vandalism, whose actions are in violation of the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act.

The well-being of our communities is strengthened by our care for one other. We support His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj, the spiritual leader of the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha temple in Mill Hill, in his call for peace, unity and harmony. We also extend the hand of friendship to the Hindu Council of Australia (Vic) and the Hindu community.

Dr Graeme Blackman
President, Victorian Council of Churches

Fr Dr Jacob Joseph
Deputy President, Victorian Council of Churches
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Epiphany means ‘revealing’. In the Christian tradition, Epiphany refers to a realization that Christ is the Son of God. Western churches generally celebrate the Visit of the Magi as the revelation of the Incarnation of the infant Christ, and commemorate the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6.

God of Light, Star of Love,
we fix the eyes of our hearts on you.
Lead us; guide us
to where shall see Christ,
and kneel.

The theme of the Epiphany season is that Jesus is the light of the world. The season begins with the light of a star and ends on transfiguration Sunday with Jesus shining with divine light on a mountain top.

The light of Christ’s love illumines our path and guides our way. We look at life in the light of God’s love, and that changes how we see the world. And the light of that love shines in us, so that our own lives become lights for others: streetlamps that offer guidance and safety, lighthouses that warn of danger, a new dawn that signals hope and beauty. Even when the scriptures aren’t literally talking about light, they describe how God’s love changes the world like light changes the darkness.

We also hear a lot this year about justice. God calls us to live in harmony with God’s spirit of compassion, which brings justice in the world like light in the darkness. Today’s world of political turmoil can feel pretty dark: things are worrisome, uncertain, unseen, and hard to discern. The world is full of shadowy figures who with selfish motives seem to avoid the light of truth, but haunt the poorly lit places. God’s mercy and justice shine light into such a world.

Steve Garners-Holmes, Unfolding Light

Several years ago, the Church of England decided that the three Wise Men might not have been men at all and there might not have been three of them. It is commonly assumed that there were three ‘givers’ for the three gifts for Jesus (gold, frankincense and myrrh) but original scripture did not say whether there were three visitors, or more, or less. (The gifts are an allusion to Isaiah 60.6: “They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall proclaim the praise of God.” Matthew, foreshadowing the cross, adds myrrh.).

The idea that the visitors were kings didn’t appear until the fifth century. The word the writer of Matthew’s gospel uses suggests the visitors were foreigners, people outside the Jewish faith – probably Zoroastrian priests, or astrologers, or magicians, or ancient shamans from the courts of ancient Persia. They were sorcerers, high-ranking officials, but not kings.

Scripture is also silent on whether they were men or women. Christine Schenk has written a wonderful article, An Epiphany with Wise Women?  She quotes a renowned authority on the Gospel of Matthew, Dominican Fr. Benedict Thomas Viviano, who believes it entirely possible that women could have been among the Magi portrayed in the Matthean birth narrative. Viviano is professor emeritus at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland. He also wrote the commentary on Matthew in The New Jerome Biblical Commentary.Well worth a read.

You may have read the humorous take on the Wise Men asks, What would have happened if it had been three Wise Women?

  • they would have asked directions,
  • arrived on time,
  • helped deliver the baby,
  • cleaned the stable,
  • made a casserole,
  • and brought practical gifts,
  • and, there would be peace on earth.
“Epiphany,” ©2003 Janet McKenzie,, Collection of Catholic Theological Union, Chicago, IL

The visitors in the Gospel account should be referred to as ‘magi’ because the Bible is “silent” on identifying them by gender or status or profession

A prayer for Epiphany
We trust in God, Creator of all that is, whose light guides us and whose grace extends to all people of the world.
We follow Jesus, the Christ of God, Light of the world, who is the ruler of our hearts, before whom we bow in adoration and reverence, to whom we offer the gifts of our hands and hearts. Jesus loved people and healed them, and taught the way of true wisdom. Though many would make him king, he was not a ruler of a nation but the Prince of Peace. Earthly kings were threatened by him, and crucified him, but he was raised from the dead, sovereign even over life itself.
We live by the Holy Spirit, whose light is a star that guides us, whose grace gives us gifts to offer the world, whose companionship makes us one with peoples of all nations, tribes and traditions. In the power of that Spirit we devote ourselves to love and justice, for the sake of Christ, the sovereign of our hearts.
(Source: Steve Garnaas-Holmes)

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Christian Armenians in Artsakh

Christmas tree in Stepanakert, Artsakh 2023

The Armenian Orthodox Church celebrates Christmas on 6th January. As the world’s oldest Christian nation, the spirit of Christmas runs deep in Armenian culture.

But holiday festivities in the Artsakh region will be curtailed this year due to the blockade of the Lachin Corridor, the only road connecting the Artsakh region to the world. Over 120,000 Armenians (including 30,000 children) depend on daily imports of 400 tons of food and medicine. Local officials are warning of a humanitarian disaster as they implement price controls and ration remaining goods.

Christmas is a time for sharing. The blockade in Artsakh means the act of sharing is understood in the most literal sense, given the shortage of food, medicine, fuel and other vital goods.

Pope Francis’ has called on all parties involved in the conflict to find “peaceful solutions to the dispute “for the good of the people.”
He expressed concern about the situation in the region and in particular “about the precarious humanitarian conditions of the people, which are in further danger of deteriorating during the winter season”.

A significant number of people from this region have made their home in Australia, and will feel distress and anguish about this situation. Let us join in prayer for peace and the end of the blockade.

The World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Conference of European Churches (CEC), have urged the European Union to pursue all possible diplomatic initiatives to ensure that Azerbaijan re-opens the Lachin Corridor and provides appropriate guarantees that it will remain open. The corridor – the only road connecting Artsakh/Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia – has reportedly been blocked by Azeri forces since 12 December, completely isolating around 120,000 ethnic Armenians living in the enclave, and depriving them of food, medicines and other basic necessities, as well as gas supplies.

In a joint letter in December to the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (European Union), they wrote:

The World Council of Churches and the Conference of European Churches denounces the blockade by Azerbaijan of Artsakh/Nagorno-Karabakh, as a violation of the tripartite agreement that ended the six-week war of 2020, of international humanitarian and human rights law, and of the most fundamental moral principles. By its actions in obstructing the humanitarian Lachin corridor, and by temporarily cutting gas supplies to the region just at the onset of winter, Azerbaijan is deliberately creating a humanitarian emergency for the 120,000 ethnic Armenian residents of Artsakh/Nagorno-Karabakh, seeking to force Armenia into accepting a settlement on Azerbaijan’s terms, and trying to terrorize ethnic Armenians into abandoning their ancient homeland.

This follows a clear pattern of behaviour by Azerbaijan that contradicts any claims of goodwill and humanitarian responsibility on its part. Increasing Azerbaijani attacks on sovereign Armenian territory prompted the UN Security Council to call an emergency meeting on 15 September 2022. Growing evidence of gross violations of human rights against Armenians by Azerbaijan’s military and security forces compelled Human Rights Watch to accuse Baku of war crimes. Accountability for such crimes and violations has not been pursued. Moreover, Armenian religious and cultural heritage in the region remain largely unmonitored, unprotected and at risk.

In these circumstances, Armenian fears of renewed genocide against them cannot be discounted, and the blockade of Artsakh/Nagorno-Karabakh is a context in which those fears are greatly and understandably exacerbated.

We therefore write to urge you to pursue all possible diplomatic initiatives to ensure that Azerbaijan re-opens the Lachin corridor and provides appropriate guarantees that it will remain open. Further, we appeal to you to do all in your power to secure extension of the mandate of the existing EU monitoring mission at the Armenia-Azerbaijan border to include the Lachin corridor, in order to provide independent civilian monitoring of the situation along the corridor.

We look forward to your response, and to your swift action to address these urgent humanitarian and human rights concerns.

Yours sincerely,

Rev. Prof. Dr Ioan Sauca
Acting General Secretary
World Council of Churches

Dr Jørgen Skov Sørensen
General Secretary
Conference of European Churches

The UN Security Council has urged an end to the blockade of the Lachin Corridor. Russia, a permanent member of the Council, said that it anticipates the opening of the Corridor in the near future. Its peacekeeping forces reportedly have been engaged in negotiations with the Azerbaijani side.

During a 44-day war with 6,500 casualties in 2020, Azerbaijan recaptured three-quarters of its internationally recognized sovereign territory, before Russia engineered a ceasefire. The indigenous Armenian inhabitants controlled the enclave for the previous 30 years, claiming the right of self-determination in an unrecognized 1991 independence referendum.

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Last day of Christmas season

January 5th is the 12th day of Christmas – and is also Epiphany Eve.

It may be surprising to some that Christmas in the Western Church* is not the month leading up to Christmas, but the twelve days from December 25th to January 5th (also known as Christmastide).

The twelve days of Christmas.

(And it’s got nothing to do with the gifts in the ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’ as a catechism song – see Snopes article that debunks this social media claim)

In Christian theology, the 12 days of Christmas is the period that marks the span between the birth of Christ and the coming of the Magi (usually known as the ‘three wise men’), and is often celebrated with a focus on various saints.

It’s traditional to add the figures of the Wise Men/Three Kings into the Nativity Scene on Epiphany Eve ready to celebrate Epiphany on the 6th January. (Is the nativity set might still set up?). It’s also traditional to take Christmas decorations down following the twelve days of Christmas. And the twelfth night is also associated with the custom of ‘wassailing’. Wondering how carol singing might be received by the neighbours today?

So, the Christmas season is less about the the commercialised lead up to Christmas, or ‘switching off’ in holiday mode after Christmas festivities – and more about the liturgical rhythm to celebrate the nativity of Christ long after the stores have finished playing Christmas carols.

In Tudor England, there was a tradition on “twelfth night” when the king and his upper-echelon would become the peasants, and vise versa. The elite would become servants for the peasants. At the beginning of the ‘twelfth night’ festival, a cake containing a bean was eaten. The person who found the bean became king and would run the feast. Midnight brought an end to his rule and the world would return to normal. Interesting tradition in the light of Mary’s Magnificat where the ‘social order’ is upended.

God has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly; God has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.

(verses from Luke 1:46-55)

“The Magnificat is a revolutionary song of salvation whose political, economic, and social dimensions cannot be blunted. People in need in every society hear a blessing in this canticle. The battered woman, the single parent without resources, those without food on the table or without even a table, the homeless family, the young abandoned to their own devices, the old who are discarded: all are encompassed in the hope Mary proclaims.”

Sr Elizabeth Johnson, 2012

*Many Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas Day on or near January 7 to remember Jesus Christ’s birth, described in the Christian Bible. This date works to the Julian calendar that pre-dates the Gregorian calendar, which is commonly observed.

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Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

May he rest in peace.

Pope Benedict’s death has come at the turning of the year – December 31st. Death – and the year’s turn [crisis] – are times for reconsidering the present and for discerning the future.

Pope Francis remembered “dear Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI” as a noble and kind man of faith, and expressed his gratitude to God for his gift to the Church:

“We are moved as we recall him as such a noble person, so kind. And we feel such gratitude in our hearts: gratitude to God for having given him to the Church and to the world; gratitude to him for all the good he accomplished, and above all, for his witness of faith and prayer, especially in these last years of his recollected life. Only God knows the value and the power of his intercession, of the sacrifices he offered for the good of the Church.”

A powerful excerpt from Pope Benedict XVI’s first homily as Pope after Pope John Paul II’s passing:

“How alone we all felt after the passing of John Paul II – the Pope who for over twenty-six years had been our shepherd and guide on our journey through life. He crossed the threshold of the next life, entering into the mystery of God. But he did not take this step alone. Those who believe are never alone – neither in life nor in death. At that moment, we could call upon the Saints from every age – his friends, his brothers, and sisters in the faith – knowing that they would form a living procession to accompany him into the next world, into the glory of God…
I too can say with renewed conviction: I am not alone. All the Saints of God are there to protect me, to sustain me, and to carry me. And your prayers, my dear friends, your indulgence, your love, your faith, and your hope accompany me.”
(Pope Benedict XVI)

Catholicos-Patriarch Mar Awa III Royel (Assyrian Church) who visited Australia in 2022 offered his deep condolences to Pope Francis and the clergy and believers of the Roman Catholic Church on the passing of Pope Benedict XVI.

The world will always remember Pope Benedict, his majestic personality as a great theologian, and as an exemplary Christian who put the Church above himself. He will always be remembered as an exemplary and faithful shepherd.

Catholicos-Patriarch Mar Away III Royal

A prayer for the soul of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI:

Father, eternal shepherd,
hear the prayers of your people for your servant Benedict,
who governed your Church with love.

In your mercy, bring him with the flock once entrusted to his care
to the reward you have promised your faithful servants.

May he who faithfully administered the mysteries
of your forgiveness and love on earth,
rejoice with you for ever in heaven

In your wise and loving care,
you made your servant teacher of all your Church.
He did the work of Christ on earth.

May your Son welcome him into eternal glory.

May your servant whom you appointed high priest of your flock
be counted now among the priests in the life of your kingdom.

Give your servant the reward of eternal happiness
and let your mercy win for us the gift of your life and love.

We entrust your servant to your mercy with faith and confidence.
In the human family he was an instrument of your peace and love.

We entrust your servant to your mercy with faith and confidence.
In the human family he was an instrument of your peace and love.

May he rejoice in those gifts for ever with your saints.

Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Source: Vatican Media

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Archbishop Comensoli Christmas message

Friends, I recently heard an Advent prayer that has a striking line in it, describing Jesus’ birth. It said:

[Jesus], when the soles of your feet touch the ground,
… you become one of us, to be at one with us.

The image of God’s bare feet touching the earth is such an evocative one. 

Especially at this time of year, we know only too well what it feels like to do the ‘great Aussie dance’ across a hot beach or prickly lawn! 

But of course, this image is far more than a physical reminder.

For Christmas is the divinity of God born into our humanity. 

Through the Incarnation, God comes to us, withholding nothing of himself from us.

Barefooted—taking on our flesh, our human condition—in order to touch, and to be touched, in the particularities of our lives: this is Emmanuel—God with us. 

Christmas is God placing an exclamation mark on his words, ‘I am with you!’

Our God, whose name is Jesus, has walked with us through the tough years of the pandemic and is touching the ground now where healing and renewal is needed. 

The Son of God is walking through the streets of Ukraine and Myanmar, Ethiopia and Lebanon, with feet bloodied from war, conflict and repression, yet still taking the steps needed towards peace and liberation. 

He has seen and felt both the joy of our existence and the suffering of those who are lost or vulnerable. He has awakened us to an attentiveness for our global humanity, and a care for our common home. 

So I wonder if, this Christmas and for the year ahead, it is time to remove the ‘shoes’ that keep us from standing barefoot with Jesus—to feel the sacred ground of our lives with God?

Might we come before him ‘barefoot’ in our frailties, yet alive in the wonder of our humanity—made in his image—ready and willing to live as the people of God he has created us to be—fraternally, lovingly, caringly; generous, forgiving and hopeful. 

May Jesus, the barefooted child of the living God, fill you and your loved ones with abundant joy and peace. Happy Christmas!

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WCC Christmas message

(Originally posted on World Council of Churches website)

Rev. Prof. Dr Ioan Sauca, WCC Acting general secretary,

At the recent WCC Assembly in Karlsruhe, which reflected on the love of Christ that moves the world to reconciliation and unity, the moving and challenging question of a Muslim guest who addressed the delegates remained deep in my heart: “Is the love of Christ for Christians alone or it is also for me?”

The joyful message of the first Christmas states that the love of God in Christ is meant indeed for all people, for the whole of creation. During the night when Jesus was born, an angel appears to shepherds who live in the fields and watch over their flock. The shepherds are frightened. The angel tells them, “do not be afraid!” and adds, “I bring you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born . . . a Saviour.” Then many angels proclaim to the humble shepherds glory to God in the highest and on earth peace and goodwill toward people.

Our time is a time of fear. Some fear for the survival of future generations or the submersion of their home islands because of the climate emergency we are experiencing. Many are afraid today that they will no longer be able to feed their children tomorrow. Others are afraid that military conflicts may cause nuclear disasters. In our age of social networks, fear is leading to increasing hate speech, to a proliferation of conspiracy theories, violations of human rights, and threats to democracy.

The encouraging words of the angel – “do not be afraid!” – reflect the ancient Christian teaching that faith and love drive out fear. The angel of the first Christmas called the shepherds to have faith in the divine promise of peace on earth and God’s goodwill towards humanity.

The words of the angel are addressed to you and to me today: “Do not be afraid!” The promise of the angels is addressed to you and to me today: “Peace on earth and good will toward people!” As we welcome this promise, God’s Spirit makes us people of good will.

Who are people of good will? As Christians we are aware and confess that our very call and vocation as Christ’s disciples is to be people of good will, agents of reconciliation, and peacemakers, living out Christ’s love for the world. People of good will are also people of other faiths or people of no religion who share today in this compassionate love for their neighbours and especially for the most vulnerable, and live out in their daily lives the values of the kingdom. They are those from different ethnic backgrounds and cultures, who seek to live simply for the sake of the preservation and renewal of the whole creation. They are those who affirm today the dignity of every human being and resist the sins of Christian nationalism, racism, and xenophobia. They are our companions on the pilgrimage of justice, reconciliation, and unity.

As we welcome the beautiful message of the first Christmas, God’s Spirit calls us to become agents of reconciliation in the places we live. Ours is a time of growing polarization in family life, local communities, churches, and nations; tensions that produce conflict and trauma. 

At the first Christmas, God came to us in Jesus of Nazareth that we may be reconciled with God and become servants of reconciliation. With all good wishes for a blessed Christmas season, we invite you to welcome in faith and love the angels’ promise of peace on earth, and to live as a pilgrim on the path to justice, reconciliation, and unity.