From the Worldwide Faith News archives

ACNS3239 Christmas message from Archbishop Peter Jensen

From "Anglican Communion News Service" <>
Date Tue, 24 Dec 2002 00:22:52 -0000

ACNS 3239     |     AUSTRALIA	  |	21 DECEMBER 2002

Christmas message from Archbishop Peter Jensen

"The babe born in Bethlehem ... God's gift to a tormented and needy world"

Christmas is often presented as a picture of happiness - with Australians
enjoying their family, friends and the best this country has to offer. But
it's a two-dimensional picture. More image than reality. Behind the scenes
there are plenty of people who hate Christmas or find it difficult - and for
good reason.

It can be the unhappiest time of the year. If Christmas in Australia does
mean gathering with your family, enjoying a meal and a laugh, playing
together in the pool or on the beach, and catching up on the year gone by
with friends and relatives, then many of us just won't be taking part.

We are not just a nation of happy families, surrounding the barbecue and
cheerfully singing "Dashing through the snow..." while we perspire in the
heat. We are often the survivors of cruel relationships, illness,
bereavement or financial ruin. We have struggled this year to keep the
mortgage under control and the children in school; we have been stressed and
anxious and unsure of the future. Some of us lost a lot this year: our jobs,
our drought-ravaged farms, our burned-down houses, our spouses, our
Bali-holidaying friends. So Christmas cheer is far from the lips of many an
Australian this year.

And for the first time in a long time, fear - that great enemy of
happiness - has been scratching away at the leathery Australian soul.
Terrorism, and the subsequent talk of war, has had us murmuring our "she'll
be right, mate" in shaky voices.

In such a situation, how can a Jewish baby born in Israel in the first
century provide any comfort? Is it not insane to think that the birth of
Jesus on that first Christmas day could give more than a 'nice, historical
feel' to our eating, drinking, merry-making and gift-giving?

How can Jesus' birth offer us hope today?

The answer becomes clear when we understand Jesus' family history. The
Gospel of Matthew tells us that Jesus was descended from Israel's King,
David, who was descended from Abraham. Jesus was the long-awaited son who
would bring God's blessing to all the families of the earth. And there is
great hope in the knowledge that Jesus came from God in heaven. The baby who
was born in Bethlehem was God's gift of himself to a tormented and needy

"He came down to earth from heaven, who is God and Lord of all," we sing in
the Christmas carol. Jesus came from heaven with a mission to restore
relations between heaven and earth. He was sent with a recovery brief, a
plan to rescue us from the horror and injustice of this world, and from our
own hateful, rebellious hearts. This mission began with Christmas Day, and
was completed on Easter Sunday when the crucified Jesus was raised back to

It is this recovery mission which gives us hope, because we know from the
Bible that the mission was successful. Jesus' life, death and resurrection
restores our friendship with God. That is why the celebration of his birth
can give us comfort in troubled times. We are celebrating all that he
achieved in bringing us back to God. No terrorist act, bushfire or drought
can change that fact.

Again in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says, "Come to me, all who labour and
are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." He invites us to accept the rest
he offers. It is a spiritual rest, resting from our own failures, fears and
sins, resting in the love and kindness of God.

God invites us to join his family this Christmas. He is always extending
this invitation and welcoming in strangers from afar. We join God's family
when we entrust our futures to Jesus Christ, the Saviour sent from heaven
who restores us to friendship with God. He gives us peace, because in
knowing Jesus we have nothing to fear from the world itself. Those who trust
in Jesus know that whatever may happen, whether they live a long and
prosperous life or die at the hands of terrorists their eternal life is safe
in the hands of God.

It isn't an arrogant claim. It is the promise of God to us, the promise that
in the end things will be fine for those who trust in Jesus.

The ACNSlist is published by the Anglican Communion Office, London.

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