Every year we invite our churches from around Parkes to share some words at Christmas time with our readers and their congregations.
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It really has been a year unlike any we have experienced before.
A very tough year for many around the world.
We'd like to wish a very merry Christmas to all and a happy and safer new year.
The celebration of Christmas has for many of us become somewhat incidental to the preparation of Christmas. With all the shopping, concerts, plays, parties, family gatherings, cooking, decorating and wrapping- in addition to the normal routines of each day- time and energy have, in past years, been stretched to all human limits.
That's usually the case, but not so much this year.
This year is different.
This year, we are learning to social distance ourselves and refraining from singing Carols.
This year, family gatherings are limited, and our concerts and parties have a different look about them.
The year of Covid19, this year of 2020, has brought many things with it but perhaps joy and celebration has been lacking.
God had intended this time to be a joyous and uplifting event, but in previous years, it has become a season of tiring and burdensome activity that most people can't wait to put behind them.
People's attempts to create joy often result in overwhelming anxiety and emptiness.
There is little time, and much worse, little desire, to celebrate.
This surely is not the way God intended for us to acknowledge the anniversary of the birth of His Son.
Perhaps then, this year, there is an opportunity to bring back Joy.
"I bring you news of great joy..."
These were the words of the angel to the shepherds on that quiet night.
This message was intended to bring joy, and it did.
God had presented the world with a wonderful gift.
A Saviour. A Shepherd. A King. What good news that was!
This gift of Love- God's only Son-was right there with them, in the flesh. Emmanuel. Jesus. The very definition of great joy!
You may remember the story in the Bible, in the Gospel of Luke, the shepherds made no plans for an elaborate party.
They didn't bother with fancy clothes or worried about preparing a royal feast.
They just went as they were.
They hurried off to see the baby that was born in a manger.
They went to give honour to the one who was born to bring joy back to their empty hearts.
Each year at Christmas, people send themselves into financial, emotional, and physical exhaustion trying to bring into their lives, and the lives of others, the feeling of joy that Christmas promises.
But the Joy of Christmas is not a feeling. It cannot be purchased, created, decorated or wrapped.
The joy of Christmas is embodied in the child Himself. Jesus Christ.
The true joy of Christmas comes from recognising Jesus as God's free to gift to each one of us.
So this Christmas, let us learn from the year that's gone before us - let us stop and take a breath.
Let us connect with our loved ones as best we can, let us find Joy in the small things; words of kindness, a helping hand, the beauty and wonder of creation.
Let us return our energies to seeking and celebrating the child who has guaranteed joy- our great joy - Jesus Christ.
May you experience much joy this Christmas time as you celebrate the birth of Jesus, our Lord and Saviour.
There's no doubt about it, 2020 has been a crazy year and as we head into Christmas, we're still noticing the impact of COVID 19.
Whether it's the lack of school presentation nights or Christmas carol events, the need to acquire all Christmas presents locally or perhaps even the last minute travel preparations, now that restrictions are lifting (maybe you will get to Queensland for Christmas after all).
But in a year that has brought so much change, it's great to know that some things never change.
It's great to know that God is the same, yesterday, today and tomorrow.
It's great to know that his love for us is still beyond doubt and we see that love so clearly at Christmas.
Christmas is a reminder that God so loved the world that gave his one and only son (born that first Christmas) that whoever believes in him, shall not perish, but have eternal life.
Despite the year that's been, we have so much to celebrate this Christmas.
The birth of the Saviour - born to save us from our sins.
The hope of forgiveness and eternal life, for all those who do believe and put their trust in Jesus.
I pray that this Christmas you might understand the love that God has for you and might experience both, the peace with him and the wonderful joy that both come through knowing Jesus.
Have a safe and happy Christmas, and you're welcome to join us at 9am Christmas morning as we celebrate together the birth of the King of Kings.
We hope you'll join us.
Peace, hope, joy and love. These were hard to come by over the last year (and they were not the only scarce items!).
However, when we accept the gift of Jesus he will bring us real, deep and lasting peace, hope, joy and love no matter what else is happening in the world.
Unlike Santa's gifts, it does not matter whether you are naughty or nice.
You don't earn the gift of Jesus. God gives His gift freely to anyone who asks.
His gift has the power to change our lives.
It meets our deepest needs.
It fill us with peace despite the turmoil of our world.
It allows us to live with hope when things around us might look hopeless.
His gift brings us joy and fills us with love both for God and each other.
His gift contains forgiveness, freedom from fear, shame and loneliness, the courage and strength we need to live well and the hope and healing for an abundant and eternal life.
Try as we might we cannot manufacture these things ourselves.
They are not available to buy on the shop shelves.
We cannot negotiate them or even beg, borrow or steal them from someone else.
Peace, hope, joy and love are given to us by God through His gift of Jesus.
All we have to do is receive and enjoy.
In a recent letter Pope Francis had this to say: "As I was writing this letter, the Covid-19 pandemic unexpectedly erupted, exposing our false securities.
"Aside from the different ways that various countries responded to the crisis, their inability to work together became quite evident.
"For all our hyper-connectivity, we witnessed a fragmentation that made it more difficult to resolve problems that affect us all.
"Anyone who thinks that the only lesson to be learned was the need to improve what we were already doing, or to refine existing systems and regulations, is denying reality.
"It is my desire that, in this our time, by acknowledging the dignity of each human person, we can contribute to the rebirth of a universal aspiration to fraternity.
"Fraternity between all men and women.
"Here we have a splendid secret that shows us how to dream and to turn our life into a wonderful adventure.
"No one can face life in isolation... We need a community that supports and helps us, in which we can help one another to keep looking ahead.
"How important it is to dream together... By ourselves, we risk seeing mirages, things that are not there. Dreams, on the other hand, are built together.
"Let us dream, then, as a single human family, as fellow travellers sharing the same flesh, as children of the same earth which is our common home, each of us bringing the richness of his or her beliefs and convictions, each of us with his or her own voice, brothers and sisters all." (Fratelli Tutti, 2020)
Christ was born into our world to call us into unity and to help us love one another with a love that respects the dignity of each person.
He came to break down barriers of isolation, injustice, hatred, alienation from God, and bring new life.
Let us together continue this work in the world.
On behalf of the parish of Holy Family, Parkes we wish you a very happy and holy Christmas.
John 1:5 5 "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."
John 1:14 "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth."
The darkest place I think that I have ever been was when I went caving in Belize, Central America.
We had followed an underground river for a couple of hours, before we stopped at a sandbank for lunch.
After lunch we all turned our lights off and sat in complete darkness for around 15 minutes, it was as dark as dark could be.
But here's the thing, even in that deep, dark place, scientists have proven that there is a form of light.
I might not have seen it, or recognised it, but it was there.
Did you know that there is a debate if there actually is such a thing as complete darkness.
There is a concept of true darkness, but the problem is, that based on observation true darkness apparently doesn't exist anywhere in the known universe.
Now you might be wondering how does this relate to Christmas and the Christmas story.
So let me make the link.
John 1:14 is telling us the Christmas story, just in a different light.
The Word became flesh and dwelt among us is how Jesus, the Word, the son of God, left the glory of heaven, and came to earth in the form of a baby.
He became one of us.
Why did Jesus do that?
Why did that first Christmas come about?
Well the answer goes back to our first conversation about darkness.
Without Jesus, the world was shrouded with darkness. Evil and sin were in the winner's seat.
Humans because of the wrong things that they have done, were separated from God with no way to fix the problem.
Hope was gone and darkness seemed to be winning, it seemed to be absolute, true darkness.
But then we have that first Christmas.
And with that first Christmas came Jesus. I
n him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
You see Christmas is the ultimate story about the light of the world and about hope.
While that absolute and true darkness seemed to be present, the truth is that God has always had a plan, we see the plan in Genesis 3.
The light was always there, the problem was that many people just couldn't see it.
But then Jesus came and his light shone bright, forcing back the darkness and ultimately, when Jesus died on the cross for our sins and rose again in victory, he defeated the evil one.
Jesus made things right, and offers that light, hope and eternal life to all who ask him into their lives as their Lord and Saviour.
When darkness seems to be closing in around you and things seem hopeless, I want you to remember this.
The light is there, hope is there, Jesus is there, you just have to ask him into your life, and he will turn that light on, and the darkness will be driven back.
Christmas is an amazing story about hope, and how God, lit up the world, with Jesus.
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