Archbishop’s Christmas Message

Wednesday 23 December 2015

Christmas 2015 - The Sunday Times

Whose baby is this? 

Babies have a way of getting under our skins.  Pictures of the Royal babies, George and Charlotte, bring about much ‘aahs’ and ‘oohs’.

The arrival of a baby changes the dynamics of a family.  Relationships are altered as room is made to respond to the fragile cries of this new life.

 Maxima, the baby girl born to Priscilla and Mark Zuckerberg, the chairman, chief executive, and co-founder of the social networking website Facebook, created waves.  The Zuckerberg’s announced that 99 per cent of the stock they hold in Facebook would be “given away over their lifetime.

The six-month old baby girl born to Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik, the couple who were responsible for the San Bernadino massacre, will live her life in a paradox.  Some will see her bearing the DNA of brutal killers; others are likely to see her a symbol of heroism? 

Bethlehem today contains a multitude of shrines.  The Orthodox and the Roman Catholics claim the baby Jesus as their possession.  The Protestants are a bit ambiguous about the baby, as the death of Jesus on the Cross is what makes him Saviour.  They claim to own the Jesus who saves.  To the Israeli authorities Bethlehem is a place under surveillance; for the Palestinian the dividing wall provokes defiance.  To the traders and tourist guides it is lucrative business.

The challenging truth is that this baby refuses to come under the possession, patronage or proprietorship of any institution or authority. 

The baby and the saving act of Cross and Resurrection belong to any and all who will dare to believe in a God who loves, who will not be a symbol for any cause in which hate and prejudice are motivating factors

O little town of Bethlehem,
how still we see you lie!
How silently, how silently
the wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
the blessings of his heaven.
No ear may hear his coming;
but in this world of sin,
where meek souls will receive him, sill
the dear Christ enters in.

Christmas 2015– The West Australian 

As 2015 hurtles to an end and 2016 bursts upon us we journey through the midsummer silly season.  In journalistic parlance it is a ‘time out’ from political intrigue and breaking news of leadership spills.  Often it provides space in the news cycle for bizarre events to be given an outing.

There is the mandatory deconstruction of some aspect of the Christian faith.  The Christian narrative is the subject of some sensational new discovery? 

Psychologists and sociologists refer to this period as being particularly susceptible to the effect of affluenza, ‘a painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of overload, debit, anxiety and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of man’ (Affluenza: The All Consuming Epidemic, John de Graaf, 2001).

It is at its pervasive worst an evasion of who we really are.  It invites us to wallow in the past and to be disengaged with building a future.

Pre-Christmas, Christmas and Boxing Day sales and January/February bargains push and prod themselves into every moment as advertisers find innovative ways to get through our flimsy defences.

We are manipulated to believe that fulfilment can come through the buying of a product and that relationships can be created and enhanced by the exchange of an expensive piece of merchandise.  We become captive to the conspiracy that to enjoy the season we must over-eat and drink!!

The ‘silly season’ of midsummer madness of endings and beginnings contains within it a powerful truth.  We must learn to build a future; only then can we truly mourn the past.

To mourn the past and to be captive to its overriding power will sap us of every ounce of energy – the energy we require to build a future.

So let us awaken from the slothful slumber of affluenza and the demeaning gimmicks of the ‘silly season’ and let the God who breaks through our defences find a place in our own lives to be born and to flourish.  “Joy to the world, the Lord is come.”  

 

The Most Reverend Roger Herft AM

Anglican Archbishop of Perth