Bishops' Christmas message, December 2018
He came into the very world he created, but the world didn't recognize him. He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. (John 1:10-12, NLT)
As we come as a people to enter into the feast days of Christmas, both of us as Bishops are filled with renewed thankfulness for the people and places where the light of Christ has been recognised and shines.
I, Ellie, want to share with you the baptism prayer of Xin Sheng Wei, who last Sunday declared his new found faith in Jesus through the combined outreach of the Anglican Chinese Mission and Ramsey House at Victoria University:
Jesus Christ, my Lord!
You have saved another lost sheep,
When I was lost, you came and found me,
Your love has made me full of confidence.
Although I am old, because of your protection,
My heart is still like the black hair of a young boy.
My strength can also outweigh the brawn.
Because of your light,
Like the beautiful evening cloud, my future is shining bright,
Lord, let me the new born follow you and serve you!
Serve you and follow you!
This prayer makes my heart sing, not only because of its clarity and joy, but because of the exquisite poetry innate within its language of origin. Here the manifold wisdom of God shines.
I, Justin, having just returned from a freedom enterprise exposure trip within India with a group of our young Anglicans, was again overwhelmed with thankfulness for the people who are pouring their lives out day after day to be communities of compassion, healing and love in some of the places most oppressed by poverty in our world. I was deeply moved by the faithfulness of Mother Teresa's sisters in the home for the dying; starting the day at 6am with prayers and mass, and hearing the advent story once again and then experiencing the word made flesh through the love of the home in a tangible way.
The darkness is real, of that there is no doubt. And we are very aware of pains and heartaches around our people, particularly those experiencing Christmas this year for the first time without close loved ones; and more broadly in the era of uncertainty and confusion that could seem to dominate our present age.
However, as Christ's people, together we know that ultimately it is the light which will win through. The darkness cannot, and will not, overcome it. Even in places and spaces where there is fragility, we find the deeper joy of connection and friendship. Both of us end this year freshly aware that it is actually in the places of deep, vulnerable community, where human fragility is most real and recognised, that both the joy of the Gospel Kingdom is most recognised and accepted.
This Christmas, as beloved children of God :
May you know that you are valued deeply
May you know deeply that your value is in God
May you know that God values your deep self-giving
And may you deeply give yourself to God alone,
without expectation or agenda,
Trusting in the goodness and glory of God.
Yours in Christ
+Eleanor and +Justin