From the Worldwide Faith News archives

WCC General Secretary Issues Annual Christmas Message

Date 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  
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