Christmas: Small baby with the biggest embrace


archbishopbylineDear Friends in Christ Jesus,

Every Christmas we thank our all loving and merciful Father for sending us His Son, Jesus, into our world.

Even as a small child of Bethlehem there are subtle signs in the Gospels that the life of Jesus will be accompanied by suffering, death and resurrection. There is the presence of the humility of the stable (rejection), the swaddling clothes (resurrection cloths), the manger (the Eucharistic Lord whose life is poured out to feed his people), and so on.

This new born babe, so small and dependant on Mary and Joseph, is also the Mighty Saviour who inaugurates the Kingdom of God. Until the Lord comes again, the Kingdom of God continues to unfold in our midst. As missionary disciples of Jesus, we actively accompany this universal unfolding as the Body of Christ, His Church. It is like the Holy Spirit progressively enfolding and embracing the entire universe with God’s Kingdom of love, joy and peace (Romans 14:17).

I remember a sympathetic but agnostic marketing manager once advising me that Christianity ought focus solely on the birth of Jesus rather than his later life of suffering, crucifixion and death! He advised that the Christmas manger evokes pleasant feelings and giving, whereas Calvary and death is a “hard sell”!

What nonsense!

Yet incredibly, in so many ways, especially in the world of popular thinking and the political/legislative world, we seem to be moving in this direction.

When popular thinking seems to be overly focussed on subjective and isolated feelings and the bigger panorama of human values that we can all embrace is sidelined, then blinkered and unethical political legislation follows.

There are many such examples in Australia at present.

  • For example, we cherish human life but before birth the most dangerous place for an Australian tragically remains in the womb of his/her mother due to abortion.
  • Also we revere grandparents but when human life approaches its end and may involve suffering we are talking of euthanasia despite the incredible advances in palliative care.
  • Then we rightfully acknowledge that Australia is built on its wonderful migrant communities, yet if a refugee approaches our shores in a boat, then an incredibly harsh and immoral regime awaits them.
  • Another example would be the understanding of marriage and family life that we all cherish, especially at Christmas time. Over these past years our subjective feelings over those who wish to change the Marriage Act of 1961 to allow for other possibilities are so strong that more objective considerations over the nature and purpose of marriage over millennia are seemingly side-lined.

All of these examples and more are indicators of social conversations that stress sincere and valid considerations but taken in a narrow and largely subjective vision. The bigger embrace of a panoramic vision that incorporates our shared humanity’s complete journey with all its joys and sorrows is marginalised. We need a consistent broad ethic of life.

It is true that due to the gift of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, the Christian moral voice has been damaged to speak on ethical issues. Even so, in this strange Ecumenism of Humiliation and standing alongside victims, our voices must still be raised on these significant moral issues in Australia and beyond. We are like wounded healers.

As we stand alongside the vulnerable Christ-child of Bethlehem during this Christmas/New Year/holiday period, may we collectively reflect on our common humanity shared in Jesus. May we not simply remain focussed on the stable of Bethlehem with all its positive feelings, but journey with Jesus afresh into the continual unfolding of the biggest embrace of God’s merciful and sacrificial love: the kingdom of God among us!

May Jesus bless you and your loved ones in this Christmas time. Our prayers are especially directed to those who find this time lonely and painful for whatever reason.

Happy Christmas and Happy New Year. Enjoy whatever holiday you may have.

Pray for me as I daily do for you all.

Thank you for your encouragement and good example of faith during 2016.