Friday, December 21, 2012
Christmas message from Archbishop Robert Duncan
"Fear not, for I bring you good tidings of great joy..." [Luke 2:10]
Beloved in the Lord,
In the well-loved carol O Little Town of Bethlehem the next-to-last stanza ends "the darkness wakes, the glory breaks, and Christmas comes once more." For believers, and to any who are open to the message, the annual re-telling of the Christmas story is "good news" - evangelion, gospel - in the midst of all the anxieties, struggles and tragedies of human life. The Christmas accounts in Matthew, Luke and John give perspective unlike any other.
The Christian gospel addresses the realities of the world in which we live. Without God, or more precisely because of humanity's rebellion against Him, this is a selfish, disordered, suffering, violent and fallen world. Sin is the human curse. Sin kills. Human freedom was meant to enable us to love, but we are trapped by our propensity to mis-use this freedom.
We are especially lifted by the Christmas "good news" - evangelion, gospel - because, apart from God, there will always be a preponderance of bad news. The horror at Newtown (USA) and Chenpeng (China) are extreme manifestations of what is so sadly routine in human affairs.
The Renaissance in the West gave us magnificent art. (I love Renaissance depictions of Christmas.) But the Renaissance, and the Enlightenment that grew out of it, gave us a faulty picture of man's perfectibility and goodness. The New Testament view is that only Jesus is "good" and that it is only through His Holy Spirit, dying to the old man and rising to the new, that we can be anything near to what God intends for us to be. Doesn't the evidence of the world in which we live make more sense when we apply the Biblical paradigm?
The shepherds, in a dark and lonely night, are ready for some good news. The magi are looking for a new king and a new world order. Mary and Joseph, with the aid of the Holy Spirit, are cooperating in God's plan. When Jesus came 2000 years ago, the horrific slaughter of innocent children [Matthew 2:16] and the bleakness of a failed political and religious establishment were the context of His coming.
"I bring you good tidings of great joy...that today is born to you in the City of David a savior who is Christ the Lord." "Fear not!" The message is for us. A new king is born. He is a king who is for us and one of us and, most importantly, offers us a way out, the only way out, of the mess we are in personally and corporately. His cross will "buy us back" (literally, redeem us) if we will accept the gift. His Holy Spirit will heal us and enable us to be the kind of men, women and children God intended.
The birth of Jesus Christ changes everything because the sacrifice of Jesus Christ brings an end to the curse. Meditate in these days on what Christmas means, on the perspective it gives, on the antidote it is. Tell others, too. Help them to understand what this story actually means. The birth of Jesus Christ is pure, undiluted good news. "The darkness wakes, the glory breaks, and Christmas comes once more."
Blessed Christmas to you all.
Faithfully in Christ,
Archbishop and Primate
Anglican Church in North America