In his first Christmas message to his Diocese, Province and the wider Anglican Communion in 2013, Archbishop of Canterbury, The Most Rev Justin Welby, said the Church is to focus on the good news that Jesus “rescues us from our brokenness and makes us carriers of life and light.” Here the Archbishop echoes words from I Peter 2:9 and Col. 1:13. In both instances, the Biblical witness points to the message of salvation as one of deliverance from death to life and from darkness to light.
Archbishop Welby expressed the view that, for Christians, the good news of Jesus Christ is rooted in the birth of a baby. He says St John 1:14 echoes the idea that God chose to be vulnerable so that the world may pass Him by; ignore him and neglect him. Nevertheless, God took this risk on the basis of pure love. Later in the Gospel, the writer of St John has Jesus saying, “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son…” (John 3:16). At Christmas time, we celebrate the presence of pure, unconditional love poured out on the world. Yet, the profound truth is that such love can be embraced but it can also be neglected. Whether embraced or neglected, however, scripture and the Church, including the Archbishop, are of the view this love is here to stay.
At this time of year, faithful Christians gather the world over to testify and celebrate the presence and power of love in the world. Jesus is the supreme reality of love and the Church is a sign of Jesus’ love. Celebration in word, sacrament, drama, poetry, with the use of food, wine and other things, suggests a lavish means of marking such a momentous occasion. Pointing to the reality of love present as divine grace in the world, Archbishop Welby says:
We follow the God who is Saviour, whose word of love was found in action and word. We are called to act, whether at home or around the world, not just lament. Jesus rescues us from our brokenness and makes us carriers of life and light. He calls for that great line of witnesses that has swept down through the centuries to be continued today by a church that is confident in the message of God’s love and truth. It will always be an untidy church because we are in a vulnerable, untidy, broken world. Yet when we see the fact of Christ’s birth, hear the witnesses, receive the life he gives and respond in passionate discipleship then all our vulnerabilities, muddles and weaknesses are carried in His strength. The Christian meaning of Christmas is unconditional love received, love overflowing into a frequently love-lost world.
At Christmas 2014, therefore, Christians in Jamaica, across the Caribbean and around the world are invited to embrace the gospel as a message of love. It is love which enters into the darkness of an often love-less world to rescue it from death and transfer it into the light of God. We are called to love as God loves and make known such love by word, deed and example of life. To extend love to someone this Christmas is to be the word in flesh.
A blessed, holy and peaceful Christmas to you all.
Rev Garth Minott
United Theological College of the West Indies