In the spirit of Christmas and in the name of the one whose birthday we celebrate, Jesus of Nazareth, Council for World Mission salutes you. We pray that yours will be a peace-filled season, marked by resilient hope, unwavering faith, and enduring love.
This year, 2019, confronted us with many stories of turbulence and pain. But these were equally met with stories of resilient hope and a spirit of goodwill and generosity. The Hague story, which started in 2018, in which an Armenian family faced the dim prospects of deportation from the Netherlands, after several years of residency in that country, was met with loving actions and defiant faith by the Christian community who rallied with them in a non-stop vigil, worship and prayer for 96 days. The result was their freedom and right to remain in the Netherlands along with that of over 1000 other families facing deportation.
We received the shocking news of the deadly Islamophobic attack on a worshipping community at a Mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand. The people of New Zealand rose to reject this hate crime and the ideologies that motivated it. Even out of such a tragedy, the people’s capacity for hope and the far-reaching spirit of goodwill has ultimately prevailed. In the UK, one man responded by holding up and placard in front of a local mosque with the words: “I will keep watch while you pray”, as a statement of resilient hope and solidarity. The New Zealand government has acted swiftly to change its gun laws, resulting in the citizen’s voluntary surrender of over 56,000 guns in six months.
Easter morning broke with the sordid story of the cruel death of a young girl in Bangladesh following her bold revelation of sexual harassment by her school headmaster – pointing to the sad reality of the culture of violence against women in that country and many parts of the world. We also grappled with harrowing images of death and destruction in the wake of cyclone Idai in Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. And again, of hurricane Dorian’s devastation of the Bahamas, and many other frequent incidences of flooding and adverse weather across the world as constant and painful reminders of the present and looming dangers of a changing climate.
2019 may also as well be characterised as the year of global protests – people taking to the streets to demand change from those in power, in spite of brutal crackdowns. From Hong Kong to Haiti, Bolivia to Zimbabwe, Chile to India, to name but only a few, ordinary citizens have been risking all to reject things as they are and call for alternatives. These are among the stories and counter-stories that have occupied our minds and prayers throughout the year with many different emotions challenging our comfort zones, disrupting our theologies and inspiring our hope and resolve to see things differently.
And then comes Christmas. For the Christian community, Christmas is a celebration of the coming of Christ, God’s promised Messiah, in whom the hopes and fears of all life’s circumstances are met. Our story is that God reveals God’s self in human form and meets us at the point of human struggle and search for meaning. With this conviction, we see Christmas as a season to rekindle our imagination for life that is full and flourishing; to resist the forces of death and destruction that prey upon our security; to be renewed and refreshed in the knowledge of the unconditional love of God; and to return to the values of hospitality and generosity of spirit that mark our humanity.
In saluting you this Christmas, we pray for peace on Earth and trust that the coming New Year will greet you with fresh possibilities for meaningful and joyful living.
“…. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him… and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid… because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son… and they will call him Immanuel, which means God with us’” (Matt 1: 18-23).
Collin I. Cowan,