Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Christmas message from Canon Andrew White

Happy Christmas

It is the most beautiful time of the year. A time of light, food of parties and fun and presents. We must not forget how much it means to children. The other day I was in Toronto. There were children all around me. There was snow on the ground and a log fire burning. It was all-reminiscent of every you could imagine about Christmas. Despite being in Church one of the parents told herd child “If you are not good, Christmas will not happen”. So the little boy no more than 6 said, “what if we are not good wont Jesus be born”. With me the preacher sitting there the parents did not dare answer.

The fact is that Christmas has one reason only that Jesus was indeed born. Throughout history from the Jewish tradition there was the profound belief that one-day the Messiah the anointed one of God would be born. He would be the one who would lead people to their heavenly father God. He would be the one who would change peoples understanding of God forever. He would be the one known as the King of Kings.

Yet he was not born of the right stock, he was born of an unmarried mother who was no more than a refugee. She gave birth to her son in a grotty stable, in a grotty little town just outside of Jerusalem called Bethlehem. Not a very grand start for the person who would change history. From the day he was born history was divided into before him BC or after him AD. Those who follow that refugee child now call themselves Christians.

Christmas is also a time when you assess what has happened over the past year. For me this year has been so hard because I am not the vicar in a leafy Parish in the Hampshire/Surrey boarders where my family live. My parish is Baghdad in Iraq. The nation where the Christians have been dismissed from their hometowns in there hundreds of thousands. They have fled in their masses to the very North of Iraq fleeing the onslaught of the terrorist group known as ISIS. There for weeks my staff team have fed and clothed, provided mattresses and cradles for the thousands and thousands of internally displaced people.

Here in their refugee camp, the Christians with no Christmas like us in the West have placed a refugee tent for Jesus and there in the camp is a tent for another person who was also a poor refugee who had nothing.

This Christmas as we celebrate what we have, let us not forget that we too are celebrating the birth of a refugee who had nothing but gives us everything. As we delight in what we can give to people this Christmas let us not forget what this Christmas is really all about the time when this refugee child comes to all of us as the one who leads us to God and offers us the most wonderful gift possible this Christmas. Christmas is all about relationship with our ultimate creator.

I will never forget the day in Baghdad when we had some visitors. They had come to see what it was really like for Christians in Iraq. They were so surprised by how happy the thousands of people were in our congregation. “How can you be so happy when you are surrounded, suicide bombs, mortar’s rockets and such violence”. One of our young people answered the statement. “You see when you have lost everything, Jesus is all you have got left”.

All you have got left is the love of that refugee child. That to us in the Middle East is all that matters this Christmas. The terrorism has got so bad in Iraq that I have had to leave. So I have moved to the other place where I work Bethlehem. That little town where Jesus first came. Two thousand years after he first came he is still everything to the people, He is still everything to our Christians in Iraq and he can still be everything to us. You see when Christmas is over, when you have had all your presents and food, Jesus is all we have got left.

So Christmas is a time when we should never loose the meaning of this Christ Child who came to us so that by simply trusting in him we will have a life filled with hope and purpose and love. He is still with us 2000 years after he first came. This Christmas let us not forget that he so loves us that we must love him and in response our life will be changed forever.