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From the Archbishop


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The Most Revd Kay Goldsworthy AO, Archbishop

On Christmas Eve 1914, German and English soldiers faced each other along the western front. In the English trenches, letters and cards arrived from home. The soldiers cheered up a little. By midnight some of them even began to sing. Then suddenly a sentry shouted excitedly: 'Listen!' They listened and heard that the Germans were also singing.

A short while later, two brave soldiers, one from each side, met out in the open. More joined them. From a military point of view it made no sense. As soldiers they were supposed to fight each other. To stop suddenly, to be friends, just didn’t make sense. But there was a greater force than armies at the front that night.

When Christmas Day dawned, soldiers with smiling faces were strolling around No Man’s Land. They exchanged food, souvenirs and cigarettes. About midday, as the friendship grew, a football match between the two sides started up. But it didn’t last long. The news had reached the generals, and sharp orders arrived to put an end to the whole thing. The officers herded the men back into the trenches. It was all over. As Christmas Day turned into night, the war resumed.

That brief outbreak of peace is not only a vivid illustration of the power of Christmas and of the birth of the Prince of Peace which it commemorates. That brief outbreak of peace was also a vivid illustration of what happens when people encounter each other in the flesh, when our theoretical ideas and assumptions about the 'other' give way to a more personal and accurate knowledge and experience of them as people; human persons like us.

The same thing can be said about God. In the Letter to the Hebrews we read that, 'long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son' … Jesus is 'the exact imprint of God’s very being'. In Old Testament times, God spoke to his people through the law of Moses and the Prophets, but only in types and shadows. In Christ, however, God meets us in the flesh in order that our partial glimpses, theoretical ideas and assumptions about God may give way to a more definitive knowledge and personal experience of him.

And just like the encounter between those soldiers along the western front, Christ meets us and invites us to cross the lines and boundaries which once separated God from humanity. The Church Fathers often described this wonderful exchange in terms of the Son of God ‘becoming the Son of Man so that the sons of men might become the sons of God’ [sic]. Hence, we read in John’s Gospel, 'to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of a man, but of God'.

Christmas celebrates Christ’s birth and represents God’s entry point into human life as much as it represents our entry point into the life of God. By clothing himself with our humanity, Jesus has bestowed upon us a divine dignity and potential. This Christmas season, may we all grow in our appreciation of this profound mystery.

And let us pray that the world may experience a true and lasting outbreak of peace - in human hearts, minds, communities - across the globe.

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