Diocesan Christmas Message 2018

Another year has passed, and we could be forgiven for asking ourselves what if anything has changed since this time last year. There are still the scandals that scar our society and our Church; there are things that should have been done yet remain undone; there are still possibilities that have not been explored.

All of those things are true, but the one thing that has changed is us.

We are not the same people we were this time last year, either individually or corporately. That constant change in us allows us to recognise the deficits of the past. That constant change in us also allows us to look ahead to the opportunities that lay beyond the yet unexplored horizon.

For Christians, the Incarnation of God that we celebrate at Christmas is the one defining event in human history that reminds us that there is more to our world, to our lives, than the negative, the blatantly horrible, and the outright sinful. The Incarnation, Jesus coming to dwell among us, reminds us that no matter how easy it might be to surrender to cynicism and despair, God has fulfilled the promise made to God’s People.

The fulfilment of God’s promise is our source of unending hope.

God’s choice to dwell with us, as ‘one like us’, changes the dynamic of human existence once and for all. For believers, we know that the world, in which we live, with all its negativity, is not the total of the story of humanity. There is so much more, a ‘more’ that is rooted firmly in the hope engendered by the Incarnation.

The ‘more’ allows believers to see things through a different lens. Where others see despair, we see hope. Where others are cynical, we are optimistic. Where others see difficulties and obstacles, we see opportunities for change.

The coming of Christ among us, which we celebrate at Christmas, means believers are called to make a difference in our world. Not just because we can, but more importantly because, having been changed by the Incarnation, we do not have a choice. It is part of who we are, part of our very DNA.

For members of the Catholic Church in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, there will be plenty of opportunities to do exactly that over the coming year and beyond.

As a Church, we continue to address the consequences of our past failures regarding the abuse of children by members of the Church, and continue to work on the implementation of the recommendations of the Royal Commission.

As a Church, we prepare ourselves for participation in the National Plenary Council sessions in 2020 and 2021, where we are invited to ask ‘what do you think God is asking of us in Australia at this time?’

As a Church, we continue to prepare for our next Diocesan Synod that will take place over the same period as the National Plenary Council.

As a Church, we continue to witness to the hope that flows from the Incarnation of God, of Christ dwelling with God’s people in the here and now.

On behalf of Bishop Bill, I wish you a happy and holy Christmas as we celebrate the coming of God among us, the source of all our hope.

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