2010 Christmas Messages from Australian Church Leaders

December 22, 2010 4:16 pm
 
 
The following brief Christmas messages from many of Australia’s churches are shared with you in this final week of Advent 2010.
 
 
 
A message of peace for all
 
 
 
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom God favours!” (Luke 2:13-14)
 
 
 
The announcement of Jesus’ birth was not to the powerful or the mighty but to the poor shepherds on a cold hillside outside of Bethlehem. They must have wondered what was happening when the multitude of angels broke the silence of the night.
 
 
 
For the people in those days suffering the oppression of Roman rule this announcement was for God’s new age where peace may be embraced and God’s presence known.
 
 
 
In the present age the message of the angels still needs to be proclaimed. As the church we still need to meet the poor and the needy who live on the edge of our society. The message of peace is as much for them as anyone else.
 
 
 
May the Christmas message ring out across our nation, and God’s new age where justice can be embraced by all be heard afresh.
 
 
 
The National Council of Churches in Australia extends a Christmas greeting to the churches and the Australian community. May the message of 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.)
 
 
 
 
 
Uniting Church in Australia
 
 
 
This Christmas let us be prayerfully mindful of all who currently await assessment of their applications for asylum in Australia. Seeking to escape persecution and death they live in a difficult limbo space waiting to see if this country will accept them.
 
 
 
Early this year I visited Christmas Island Detention Centre to see firsthand the situation facing this vulnerable group of people. For many Australians this issue serves as an indicator of our national moral health. It is pleasing that our government agreed to release children and unaccompanied minors into community-based placement while their claims are assessed.
 
 
 
May Christ be born in us again to soften and warm 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.
 
 
 
Rev Alistair Macrae, President
 
Uniting Church in Australia
 
 
 
 
 
The Salvation Army
 
 
 
Serving suffering humanity is a major emphasis of the mission of the Salvation Army. And sadly, the most joyous season is when we see most of those who are suffering, people who are vulnerable, hurting, lonely, dispossessed and lost. The need is very real and whether it is due to present economic stresses, memories of the past, or anxiety about an unknowable future, for many, Christmas is not a time of rejoicing. It is not a time of peace. Our prayer is that the true message of Christmas, the coming of the Saviour of the world, Jesus, would spark fresh hope and renewed faith. In Jesus, God has moved into our neighbourhoods, into our lives, offering unconditional and unfailing love. This is cause for joy and the pathway to peace. Merry Christmas!
 
 
 
Commissioner Linda Bond Commissioner Raymond Finger
 
Australia Eastern Territory Australia Southern Territory
 
 
 
 
 
Seventh-day Adventist Church
 
 
 
The real Christmas is a great equaliser!
 
 
 
The birth of Jesus is of utmost importance, whether to the unemployed, corporate high flyers or even members of Parliament.
 
 
 
What Jesus offers is free – available to the poor as well as the wealthy; accessible to those obviously bad and those who seem to be good.
 
 
 
Whether it is celebrated in a boarding house or a penthouse suite, the same full and free salvation is available to all.
 
 
 
The primary school student can get the gist of it just as well as those in the highest echelon of academia. Jesus Himself put it simply:
 
 
 
“The Son of man is come to seek and to save what was lost.” (Luke 19:10)
 
 
 
“At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:10-11)
 
 
 
Pastor Ken Vogel, General Secretary
 
Seventh-day Adventist Church
 
 
 
 
 
Serbian Orthodox Church
 
 
 
Christmas is a day of joy! Christmas is a day of life itself, for it is the fruit of God’s love! To reject such love, His love, precisely the sacrifice of God’s love, in which even we were created, implies the rejection of the Creator of this world Himself! For whoever does not love does not know God, states Christ’s Disciple, whom Jesus loved (John 13:23), for God is love! (1 John 4:8) And in His perfect love even we sinners uncover a great mystery in life: we have the ability to love only because He first loved us! (1 John 4:19)
 
 
 
Let us hasten, thereby, only toward an encounter with sincere love and true freedom. Let us hasten, there where the love of humanity has encountered true freedom. Let us hasten, into that community, where the relations of one with the other are proper. Precisely there and through such a community we will uncover that the Kingdom of God is within and among us (Luke17:21), for we abide in interpersonal love. On the other hand, those who possess everything but do not have love (1 Cor.13:1-3), already in this age abide in hell. However, rejoice and be without fear for Christ our Saviour was born to free us from death and from such thoughtless devastation! Rejoice, for there is no fear in love, as perfect love drives out fear! (1 John 4:18)
 
 
 
Love one another in the fear of God and rejoice always
 
and in all things be grateful to the Lord!
 
For this is the mystery of our salvation (1 Thess. 5:16-18)
 
 
 
GOD’S PEACE — CHRIST IS BORN!
 
TRULY, HE IS BORN!
 
 
 
Given in Sydney at Christmas in the Year 2010.
 
 
 
Bishop Irinej of Australia and New Zealand
 
The Serbian Orthodox Church
 
 
 
 
 
Presbyterian Church of Australia
 
 
 
In “the Lost Continent” Bill Bryson, describes a visit to the Grand Canyon.
 
 
 
“the path was slippery….there was no fence to keep you back from the edge,…..The fog parted. It just silently drew back like a set of theatre curtains being opened, and suddenly we saw that we were on the edge of a sheer, giddying drop of at least a thousand feet. “Jesus” we said and jumped back and all along the canyon edge you could hear people saying “Jesus”, like a message being passed down a long line. And then…. silence….out there in front of us was the most awesome, most silencing sight that exists on earth.”
 
 
 
How appropriate and yet how ironic. The one who made the Grand Canyon, to whom it belongs – an exclamation an expletive. And yet maybe that is the ultimate backhanded compliment. As humans when faced with the awesomeness of God’s creation we feel the need to utter a response and “Jesus” is the right response. The world was made by him and for him, we have messed it up and he has come to put things right, to reverse the curse, to reconcile us to God and to each other and even to our physical environment. As the carol says;
 
 
 
“Joy to the World the Lord has come
 
let earth receive her King,
 
let every heart prepare him room
 
and heaven and nature sing.”
 
 
 
Rt Rev David Jones, Moderator General
 
Presbyterian Church of Australia
 
 
 
 
 
Lutheran Church of Australia
 
 
 
No reason can discover it. It is the most astounding truth in Scripture.. It is an invitation to all. And it is known only because of the birth of Christ. This is the event which gives rise to what we call Christmas and is celebrated even in our secular society.
 
 
 
The songs for this time have brought wars to stop and pause. Thousands in our society gather in public places to sing and light candles. Children are drawn to it.
 
 
 
So powerful is the message that many retailers and educators are afraid to expose the public to it for fear some may be offended.
 
 
 
Humble is the coming of Jesus into time; a helpless child. Born to die, his death and resurrection for us is now the realised hope of forgiveness and life.
 
 
 
We dare not celebrate Christmas based on what we have done or can do, but on what the child of Christmas, the Christ has done.
 
 
 
Here is peace from God. An astonishing gift.
 
 
 
The Reverend Dr Mike Semmler, President
 
Lutheran Church of Australia
 
 
 
 
 
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia
 
 
 
“Christ is Born – Glorify Him
 
Christ from the heavens – Meet Him
 
Christ on earth – Exalt Him
 
Sing to the Lord all the earth…”
 
 
 
These verses are a direct quotation from a poem by St Gregory the Theologian (4th century) who, as we know, expressed the most foundational position of the Christian Church – of East and West – concerning the divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ.
 
 
 
The Beloved disciple and Theologian chose just one word to describe the unfathomable essence of God. He said ‘LOVE’.
 
 
 
It is to love that the Incarnation of God can be attributed. And to the very same love we can attribute the corresponding miracle of the ‘deification’ of the human person.
 
 
 
However to realise the depth and power of God’s love, we must know its two basic characteristics: Firstly, that it is all-encompassing, covering the entire creation from when it came out of nothing. Secondly, it is a love that cannot be reciprocated. In other words, it is not given in return for anything that we have done, but totally free. For this reason, in the language of the Church, the love of God is called grace.
 
 
 
To Him be honour and glory to all ages. Amen!
 
 
 
His Eminence Archbishop Stylianos, Primate
 
Greek Orthodox Church in Australia
 
 
 
 
 
Coptic Orthodox Diocese of Sydney & Affiliated Regions
 
 
 
The Feast of the Nativity 2010
 
 
 
It is my pleasure to wish all of you a blessed and joyous Feast of the Nativity. We rejoice on this blessed Feast Day, because of Immanuel our God.
 
 
 
Let us reflect together on this joyous prophecy said by Isaiah the Prophet, “See the virgin will conceive and bear a son, and you will call His name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14). This joyful prophecy about the birth of our Good Saviour from the Holy Virgin Mary, the Theotokos, clarifies for us that the One born from the Virgin is Immanuel – God is with us. He is the Incarnate God; perfect in His divinity and perfect in His humanity.
 
 
 
Today’s joyous message is that God, who was far from us, has become near to us; He became Immanuel, God is with us. In our sufferings and tribulations, we see Immanuel, God is with us. We see Him sharing the affliction of every person suffer for His Holy Name.
 
 
 
In the midst of the fears and instability, which is prevalent in the world today, we look up to Immanuel our God, with His cheerful face, walking on the waves of this disturbed world, coming to us with His compassionate voice ringing in our ears, “It is I, do not be afraid.” (Mark 6:50) As soon as He enters the boat of our lives, the wind calms.
 
 
 
We pray that Immanuel our Lord may always shine on us with His joyous face, always granting us power, courage, peace, tranquillity and joy.
 
 
 
May Immanuel our Lord bless our beloved country Australia, its people and Governments.
 
 
 
Bishop Daniel
Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of Sydney & Affiliated Regions
 
 
 
 
 
Churches of Christ in Australia
 
 
 
Christmas comes with mixed emotions. For some, it is dread as already stretched finances and credit debt come to a breaking point. For some it is sadness: those they loved are no longer here. The ‘joy’ of the season only compounds their loneliness.
 
 
 
For others, any sense of any meaning is drowned in a flurry of activity, crowds and obligatory shopping.
 
 
 
Luke’s words can seem ironic: “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)
 
 
 
Good news? Great joy? As difficult as those concepts can be to grasp for many, that is the Christmas message. Jesus was good news for us all because his birth reminds us that despite what we may feel, there is hope. There is Someone else involved in our lives, and that feelings of dread, loneliness and busyness can be removed.
 
 
 
But Jesus’ birth wasn’t simply to be seen as a cure to individual ills. Christmas reminds us that although we may dread the impending climate crisis, wars, the increasing gap between rich and poor and the sense that in many ways our society is extending credit but limiting compassion, we have still received good news of great joy for all of us. There is still Someone involved in all that is going on.
 
 
 
May we, His people, usher that hope in.
 
 
 
Have a hopeful Christmas.
 
 
 
Craig Brown, Federal Coordinator
 
Churches of Christ in Australia
 
 
 
 
 
Catholic Church in Australia
 
 
 
Praying for peace for all
 
 
 
Here in Australia we are lucky to be able to experience the peace and joy of Christmas which for many of us is marked by relaxing holidays, the refreshing experience of summertime, family gatherings and catching up with friends.
 
 
 
This is in stark contrast to other countries where our Christian brothers and sisters will be celebrating Christmas wondering if their churches are going to be attacked or individuals targeted by violence as they go to Mass and visit their families.
 
 
 
So this Christmas is a time for us to pray that Christians everywhere around the world can celebrate in peace, especially the Christians in Iraq who have suffered horrendously through the attack on the Syriac Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of Salvation in Baghdad. This atrocity has been followed by coordinated attacks and bombings against Christians across the country.
 
 
 
As well as praying for their safety and that they may be blessed with the peace of Christmas, it is also a reminder to us as disciples of the Lord that the work of peacemaking is incomplete and that we have to do all that we can to be peacemakers in the dimensions of our own personal life.
 
 
 
The feast of Christmas is an opportunity to not only wish people well but to do everything we can to support one another in peace, especially the members of our community who are hurting or who are marginalised. I ask the Catholic community in Australia to be especially generous this year in their response to the needs of others both at a local level and throughout the world.
 
 
 
We also offer our prayers and deepest sympathy for the family and friends of the miners killed in New Zealand. Their Christmas will be a terribly sad and sombre one but the great comfort for us who believe in Christ is that what the birth of Jesus offers is the ultimate surety that even in the midst of the worst possible end you could imagine, we are ultimately safe and enter a new way of life that is fuller, more blessed and more beautiful than we will have in this world. Let us remember this as we celebrate Christmas this year.
 
 
 
Archbishop Philip Wilson, President
Australian Catholic Bishops Conference
 
 
 
 
 
Australian Baptist Ministries
 
 
 
A fresh song comes to us this Christmas, from a place least expected. The single release from the 2010 X Factor series sung by Altiyan Childs Somewhere in the world tonight, sounds out the good news story of God’s action in Jesus in a fresh way. At first the song is a lament, of not being in that special place where things are “all right”. Then the song reveals a great hope that there is a better place / state, – that somewhere justice, peace and joy can be known. Following the lament and expression of hope, the song is a response – “take me there” – expressing the deep desire to be in that place where everything is “all right”.
 
 
 
Of course this is the very message of Christmas. The lament of the ages is that things are not right. Rachel weeping for her children still echoes loudly today along with every moment of human injustice and violence. But there remains hope for a better day. The Biblical prophets and poets spoke of this day and pointed to the great hope of a Messiah under whose rule and reign everything would be “all right”. The good news of Christmas is that God did not just hear our lament, nor ignore our hopes, but rather acted, and fleshed out this hope, bringing a better place into reality. In the coming of Jesus, love, joy, hope, mercy, forgiveness, justice and peace arrived on earth. There remains only one place where things can be made ‘right’, again, – where restoration can be a reality, and that is ‘In Christ’ who is the way, truth and light.
 
 
 
Along with this new song, may our hearts respond to say "take me there" – for only in following Jesus are we able to encounter that better place and so help others make the same wonderful discovery. That first Christmas the shepherds also heard this song. They responded: ‘take me there’ to Bethlehem that we might see this thing that has come to pass. In the incarnation, God in flesh, we receive our ‘better place’ where everything is "all right". May our response be – ‘Take me there’.
 
 
 
Rev Dr John Beasy, National President
 
Australian Baptist Ministries
 
 
 
 
 
Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East
 
 
 
On behalf of the Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East Archdiocese of Australia, New Zealand and Lebanon, I would like to bestow my Christmas blessings to all.
 
 
 
As we draw near the celebration of the birth of Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, let us remember the many blessings we have been given in abundance in this rich country. This time of blessings which we share with our family and loved ones should also instil in us the desire to pray for those in our community and across the globe who are enduring difficult circumstances and are less fortunate than us. May we use every opportunity that we are given, to share the Lord’s love and blessing’s with those who are in need.
 
 
 
May the blessings of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father and the fellowship of The Holy Spirit be upon you this Christmas, and through the coming New Year.
 
 
 
His Beatitude Mar Meelis Zaia AM, Metropolitan
 
Archdiocese of Australia and New Zealand, Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East
 
 
 
 
 
Anglican Church of Australia
 
 
 
Each Christmas we express our belief in a God of peace. We proclaim our hope that the kingdom of God is a kingdom of peace. The future is pictured as a great feast where all are welcome, all are equal and all have enough.
 
 
 
Daily news reminds us that this vision is a distant hope for many parts of the world. Violence reigns unchecked in many places. More and more of our brothers and sisters are left homeless and persecuted.
 
 
 
Peace will come closer when we take Christ’s call seriously and live as though the kingdom of God is already among us. Announcing our hope for peace this Christmas also requires us to act to make peace a reality.
 
 
 
The Christmas Bowl Appeal is one such action. This year the Christmas Bowl will assist victims of violence in Burma and the Sudan. It deserves our generous support. The peace of the world depends on it.
 
 
 
May we all know peace and bring peace this Christmas.
 
 
 
The Most Rev’d Dr Phillip Aspinall, Primate
 
Anglican Church of Australia