From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
WCC General Secretary Issues Annual Christmas Message
04 May 1996 19:49:42
95445 WCC General Secretary Issues Annual Christmas Message
by Jerry L. Van Marter
LOUISVILLE, Ky.--Konrad Raiser, general secretary of the World Council of
Churches, has issued his annual Christmas message from Geneva.
The text of Raiser's message:
"In India, a special guest is honored upon arrival by being garlanded.
There is a profound religious meaning to this custom: originally, people
gave garlands to the gods as a sign of reverence. Today's guest, therefore,
is being greeted as if God were visiting.
"At Christmas, we celebrate God's coming into our midst in human form
as a child who is called Jesus. St. Paul, writing to the Philippians,
proclaims that Jesus Christ was in the form of God and did not regard
equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking
the form of a slave, being born in human likeness' (Phil. 2: 6-7).
"What difference does it make for those who are Christians that God is
not to be found in temples nor in the unknowable or unreachable beyond, but
in everyday human reality; that God in Christ has shared our human
existence in the helpless and vulnerable form of the child in the manger?
"Firstly, it makes a difference for our worship which does not
necessarily have to take place in a huge cathedral or a temple filled with
treasures. Because God has come into the world and into our lives, our own
human body becomes a temple, the place where God is present in the spirit.
What is true for us is also true for others, so any encounter with another
person can become an encounter with God in Christ. Even a simple shack in
the slums of Buenos Aires can be filled with the joy of the divine presence
in the sharing of bread and wine -- as was the case of the child in the
manger for whom there was no place in the inn.'
"That God is to be found in everyday human reality also should and
does make a difference for our priorities as Christians. The message of
Christmas invites us to turn to those outside, those who are marginalized
and excluded like the shepherds in the fields, because it is to them that
the good news is announced.
"Here is an example of Christian service to the world's rejected ones.
In a village congregation in South India, some of those attending the
worship received a pair of sandals. The recipients were Dalits who in the
past, and still in villages in some parts of India are not allowed to wear
shoes. This is imposed on them by others who offensively refer to Dalits
as untouchables' and see them as fit only to walk in the dust. Therefore,
any sandals offered to a Dalit become like garlands offered to the visiting
"This Christmas, I hope we will use the occasion to greet and honor at
least one person outside our normal reach as if God were visiting us today,
which, of course, God is!"
For more information contact Presbyterian News Service
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Louisville, KY 40202
phone 502-569-5504 fax 502-569-8073
E-mail PCUSA.NEWS@pcusa.org Web page: http://www.pcusa.org
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