VIDEO: Bishop's message that Christmas spirit even in a dark world can provide light
What is the Christmas message?
An opinion poll reported that 88% of people associated Christmas with being happy. Is the message 'Joy to the World'? Or in the immortal words of Noddy Holder belting out Slade's ever popular hit "so here it is, Merry Christmas, everybody's having fun".
In a scientific world we want evidence. The question is always 'is it true?' The evidence seems to contradict the message of joy and fun.
Look at the terrible conflicts across the world. Especially in the land of Jesus' birth. Look at the levels of stress in so many lives. Stress levels that tend to rise at Christmas. Look at the pressures and problems mounting up – debt, pensions, homelessness, young people without jobs.
Many 'modern' people would dismiss any Christian message couched in the traditional terms of peace and joy. Christmas might be time for a rest, a break, seeing family and nothing more. The evidence seems clear. One message is indisputable. Human organisation and systems always struggle against the tide of conflict, corruption, crisis. That is the way of the world. It keeps newspapers and TV in business – reporting the ups and downs.
So what is true? What is the message? There is a famous story from the First World War. On Christmas Day, German and Allied troops declared an informal truce along one part of the front line. They emerged to share some food and drink and to play a game of football. Next day war resumed.
Here was a moment of hope. The instinct of human hearts for peace, for joy, for fun. Human systems will not deliver these things. But human hearts can.
It is no coincidence that the Christmas message is about a baby. Tiny children melt human hearts – they bring something out of each of us – about the preciousness and the possibilities of life.
The Christmas message is about hearts that dare to hope. That is what Christians seek to cultivate by going to church, by following the Christ child. He grew up to make a difference in terms of enabling peace and justice.
This is the truth some of us discovered in our city through the Redfern Commission, which has been in operation over the last six months. Systems and structures are under severe pressure. Cuts in public services as part of the necessary financial stringency. Voluntary and faith groups struggling to respond to new needs and challenges.
The Commission offered a space for conversation between citizens. People from all kinds of contexts came together to share concerns, but more, to share hopes. Hearts that hope can provide new life – new energies and new ways.
This is our opportunity for the coming year. A Christmas spirit of hope, even in a dark world, can provide the light and the direction for working together to create better ways of nurturing young people, making work opportunities available, developing partnerships between businesses and schools or voluntary groups. Increasingly, our capacity not just to cope but to celebrate.
Every heart has the capacity to hope. Christmas encourages us to own this truth and to act on it.
In our city we can each resolve to work more purposefully in this direction – together.
Whether or not you are a believer in the Christ, try to believe in the Christ-mas message. The key to peace and joy and fun is human hearts that dare to hope. Our world needs us to be hopeful each day. The message is not just for Christmas.