A Christmas Message from the Anglican Bishop of Newcastle – Dr Peter Stuart
There is expectation in the air. Christmas is near and people have begun their travels. Children are excitedly anticipating gifts from Father Christmas. Parents are wondering who might join them in church or around the dinner table.
The good news which Christians celebrate at this time of year is that, in a humble environment, God turned up! Christians affirm that the one through whom all things are created became present. They rejoice that cosmic love was embodied as a baby in a manger.
There is something about turning up. Sometimes it is easy and sometimes it is hard.
This Christmas there will be people who knock on a door or press dial on their phone to someone they feel estranged from. There is something about the message of love and reconciliation that has touched them. They want to reach out. This action will require them to summon all their courage because they expect and fear rejection.
This Christmas there will be people who hear the doorbell or phone ring. They will move towards it perhaps uncertain of who is reaching out to them. In an instant they will need to decide. How will they respond? Can it be with kindness or must coldness prevail for longer? This action will require them to draw deeply from their emotional reserves. Hurts can be hard to heal.
The enduring story that Christians tell is that God turns up and opens the door. God, who is love and who calls all things into being, is present seeking restoration and reconciliation. God wants to be at one with all creation. For Christians, Jesus is God amongst us. Word made flesh!
One of the essential elements of enabling renewed relationship with people is the gift of humility. It seems easy to keep putting our argument across and pointing out the superiority of our way of thinking. Humility is about walking a mile in another person’s shoes. It recognises that another person will have wisdom to offer because of their unique blend of experience, culture, and learning.
Whether or not people embrace all that Christians teach about Jesus there is enough to suggest that his character and teaching had such impact that people couldn’t help but talk about him. One of the earliest Christian hymns, recited in the letter to the Philippians, speaks of Jesus emptying himself and taking the form of a slave in order that God’s reconciling work might be completed.
Who will turn up this Christmas? Perhaps we will turn up in an unlikely place or we may answer the phone to a long-lost connection.
May we in those moments be filled with the same mind as Christ and encounter other people with his humility and grace. May the reconciliation we need begin!
The bishops, clergy and people of the Anglican Diocese of Newcastle join with you in wishing you a merry Christmas and a happy new year.