While Christmas may not be our holiest day of the year, it is often our most joyful. For the birth of the child Jesus – the Son of God born in human flesh – expresses most tenderly the love that God has for us, his closeness to us, and his desire that we draw closer to him and to one another.
Christmas and the child Jesus do indeed draw us closer together around him. It seems to be the time of year that we most desire to be together, and so we come together in these Christmas weeks for all manner of gatherings as workmates, as friends, as neighbours, and as family.
Christmas also seems to be the time in which we reflect upon the year that has just been and the year that is about to begin. There is something more profound happening here than Christmas merely coinciding with the New Year period. Rather, I encourage us all to more consciously bring our year that has just been to our Lord Jesus, to present it to him with all its joys and challenges, to reflect in his light on how we have fared in our choices and actions, and to seek his guidance, grace, and blessing upon our lives and plans for the year ahead.
As I reflect on the past 12 months to bring them to the Lord, I would like to share four things with you.
First, personally it was a big year for me as God’s changing plans for me unfolded in my move from Armidale to Maitland-Newcastle. This came as a surprise to me, but it gave me the opportunity to renew my trust in God and my commitment to serve. I reflect with gratitude on the warm welcome, open hearts, and human kindness that I have received here from so many people both within and outside the Church.
Second, at a local level I am reminded of the deep sorrow that gripped our community earlier this year after the Hunter bus tragedy. The loss of precious life shook many of us to the core as we mourned together. But we also prayed together and supported one another through this profound grief. In that time of darkness, we witnessed the grace of God and the best of human nature.
Third, the most significant event of the year at a national level was probably the Voice referendum. Whilst both the result and the tone of some of the campaigning may have been disappointing to some, I think the whole process highlighted a couple of things on which we as a nation should be proud and can build for the future: Australians are greatly concerned for wanting better lives and outcomes for our indigenous people, and it is possible for good people to reach different conclusions about the best way to achieve desired goals and outcomes, in which case listening to each other is crucial.
Fourth, at a global level, we were shocked and horrified by the Hamas attack on Israel, reminding us of the hatred that can be stirred up in human hearts and, as a result, just how precarious peace can be. Our thoughts continue to be with those living in the midst of the ongoing conflict in Gaza, as well as those in Ukraine. In the face of such violence, we are called to be instruments of peace, to pray earnestly, and to strive for understanding. For those with eyes to see, these events also brought about many acts of solidarity and kindness.
So, this Christmas we bring to the Lord a year of both darkness and light, sorrow and joy, grief and hope. I’m sure your own life too which you bring to the Lord reflects this same interplay of good and evil in some way, as does mine. Our world and each of our lives need the faith, hope, and love of God who in the Child Jesus brings us together. I wish you a truly joyful Christmas and blessed new year.
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