From the Worldwide Faith News archives

ACNS3226 A Christmas Message from St George's College,

From "Anglican Communion News Service" <>
Date Thu, 12 Dec 2002 23:28:05 -0000

ACNS 3226     |     MIDDLE EAST      |	   10 DECEMBER 2002

A Christmas Message from St George's College, Jerusalem

by S Ross Jones

Merry Christmas to all of you from St George's College Jerusalem. As we
celebrate our Lord's birth, it is time for us to pause and reflect a bit on
how easily the circumstances in this land consume our total attention.
Certainly no one wants to ignore those circumstances, but Christmas rightly
brings us back to the fact that we are more - more than victims of strife.
We are holy people: holy because we are in God's image; holy because God
loves us; holy because God became as we are.

As I sat in the Arabic service at St George's Cathedral yesterday, I
reflected on what a great congregation it was in spirit, in numbers for
Jerusalem, in music, etc. It was a privilege to be a part of it. The rest of
the world would look at that small gathering in the face of a culture that
would just as soon Christianity disappear, and wonder what they really felt.
My conviction is that these congregations do not survive because of the
faith of those who attend, though faith is certainly there. They survive
because the Holy Spirit has a way of working through people in more ways
than people think is happening. These people would not think of themselves
as being heroic, but simply as doing what they have always done. At one
level there is no consciousness of trying to keep Christianity alive or
preserving it for the future. Yet I am convinced that the Holy Spirit is
working through them.

Joseph and Mary probably did not consider themselves to be extraordinary in
any way, either. Yet our Lord chose them to benefit us all. It could equally
well be happening to any of us today. Our Christmas is not just to celebrate
what happened in Bethlehem so many years ago, but also to rejoice that God
could work through every one of us in ways that we would never suspect. No
one goes to Church because they aspire to be a Joseph or Mary, but our daily
life is holy in a way that we must not ignore. It is deeply humbling to be a
priest at the altar on Christmas Day and see so many people routinely
acknowledging the fact that God loved them enough to become as they are,
even as they may well be questioning their own belief. The Spirit is working
through normal Palestinian Christians for the survival of the Church here,
and I am convinced the same is true everywhere. There is just no dramatic
crisis to highlight it so people get caught up in petty conflicts. This year
is a time for all of us to think in small terms rather than global ones.
Don't think of ultimate ends, but of what we normal humans can do.

Bishop George Browning of Canberra, Australia, made a moving announcement in
an ordination sermon the day before Advent. After chronicling both terrorism
and injustice around the world (thinking particularly of the Middle East)
and noting that we must not condemn the one without the other, he said he
would eat nothing from dawn till evening each day until Christmas in
solidarity with those who suffer unjustly. Further he would be at an
appointed place each day from noon to 1:00 pm and invited others -
Christians, Muslims, or Jews - to join him in a mutual witness.

Celebrate your Christmas in wonderful freedom and thank God for the gift of
a Son who became a normal human being so we can know that "normal" is really
much more than "human". We just need to help God a bit. Merry Christmas and
Happy New Year.

Web site:

[The Very Revd S Ross Jones is dean of St George's College Jerusalem]

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