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Christmas Message 2004

From the World Council of Churches general secretary

09 December 2004

"…in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it."
John 1:4-5

The good news of Christmas shines forth upon the world like the summer sun in the southern hemisphere, like a sparkling star in the wintry northern sky. It shines brightly as "good news of great joy" in a world that surrounds us with disturbing news. It renews our faith in the promise of peace on earth, and calls us once again to praise God whose glory extends to the highest heavens. For centuries, the hope of peace inherent in Christmas has been a central affirmation of the church's faith. Each time that we celebrate the birth of Christ, we commit ourselves to live out this hope.

We celebrate the hope of Christmas as the promise of peace. We recall the birth of Jesus who came to us as a child threatened by violence, as a refugee whose family fled due to the ambitions of the powerful. In this season, in this world, we offer our thanks and praise to God for the hope we have in Jesus Christ, for the gift of God's love revealed in human vulnerability.

The good news of Christ's coming and dwelling among us is a source of illumination in this world, for through his life and teachings he has shown us the way that leads to peace. Jesus said, "My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives". This world gives us walls dividing peoples, security strategies, repressive laws and pre-emptive wars. Jesus calls us to discover responsible ways of living in unity as human beings. Jesus Christ has given us the great commandment to love and calls us to overcome the spirit of vengeance, hatred and rivalry; he teaches us to pray for our enemies. Jesus has instructed us not to pursue our own interests at the expense of others, not to be envious when the disempowered are re-empowered, not to obstruct justice when those who have been deprived are restored. He has called us to discern the face of God in the neglected and abandoned. He calls us daily to lives of obedience, through our faith and in our actions.

We in the World Council of Churches have chosen to live together in the light of Christ, the light that shines in spite of darkness, the light that defies the encircling gloom. We celebrate the hope of peace despite continuing conflicts, despite fear and suspicion, hatred and warfare, abuse and greed. Our world is pervaded by cultures of violence that exclude, subjugate, terrify and violate those who are identified by their persecutors as "different". It is alarming that many who engage in this behaviour attempt to justify themselves in the name of "God".

As we proclaim the birth of Jesus, the Prince of Peace, we celebrate the hopes of 100 children at La Tablada Disciples of Christ Community Centre in Buenos Aires, Argentina, which I visited in November. Together with 15 young people, also from the slums and broken homes, the lives of those children are being transformed at the centre, whose ministry is inspired by the love of Christ. Elsewhere in the world, the reality of Buenos Aires and La Tablada is duplicated many times over. We pray that God's light may shine on people in difficult situations, helping them to identify forms of resistance that promote positive change. We celebrate endeavours of co-operation and support among the afflicted, interfaith initiatives for peace and harmony, people's movements for peace and justice - and, in all these, we recognize yearnings for a better world.

Amid this world's divisions and destruction, the good news of Christmas reminds us that God reaches out in love and calls us to a ministry of reconciliation. "…in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it."

Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia
World Council of Churches general secretary
December 2004