Christmas is a time of welcome
As the seasonal celebrations of the birth of Jesus begin, we look forward to celebrating the birth of Jesus, the one in whom Christians see the divine and eternal most clearly embodied, uniquely incarnated, in-fleshed. The Jesus we meet in the gospels is not primarily concerned about religious practices, ritual purity, or a person’s inner spiritual life. Time and time again in the gospels we hear, we see, Jesus confronting the religious leaders of his day and the political leaders of his day, and challenging them all to extend God’s eternal welcome, to live with more compassion, to include those on the margins of society and the most vulnerable, widows and orphans, refugees and aliens, the poor and meek. The Jesus we meet in the gospels, and to which Christians bear witness in every time and place, does not remain a gentle infant, meek and mild, but actively and radically seeks to extend God’s welcome to all.
Jesus embodies the free and gracious gift of God’s eternal welcome to all. This is what Christmas celebrates, just like Easter: new life, new hope, new possibilities for each of us, and for all of creation.
This is what the Church’s season of Advent is for: an unexpected and new thing happened long, long ago, and in every new generation since, people find this story of new life and new hope provides a powerful alternative to the commercial stories our global media-saturated culture now relentlessly tells us. We need new hope, as we face the huge challenges of global pandemic, climate change, domestic violence and global warfare, obscene wealth and dire poverty, religious conflicts and terrorism.
The Christmas story relentlessly critiques the powerful kings and rulers of our world, and invites us to live with grace, integrity and humility. These build resilience and help us to live lives of purpose and meaning. Advertising and social media relentlessly tell us to be consumers, but we know already that we consume far more than the earth can sustain. We need to live with responsibility and commitment to recover a sustainable world. We are relentlessly told to fear difference, but we know already that compassion, belonging and inclusivity build authentic relationships for everyone’s wellbeing and a safer world.
As Christmas approaches, I encourage you to listen for the deep values that lie beneath the snowflakes and tinsel, to share a welcome with family and friends and strangers, and to live with care and compassion: love is what the world needs now, and in Jesus we see love born in human form. It is in this form that we see embodied a love which eternally welcomes all in order to bring hope and new life to all.
May the story of Christmas be born anew for you.
Synod Liaison Minister (Tas.) and Presbytery Minister for Pastoral Care