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Christmas Message by Presiding Bishop of The Gambia, The Methodist Church The Gambia, The Most Reverend Hannah Caroline Faal-Heim

Dec 30, 2013, 9:44 AM

(Friday, December 27, 2013 Issue)

Peace on earth, good will among people (Luke 2:14)

Historically, Christmas commemorates the birth of Jesus, a baby who was born in Bethlehem, in the City of David, to a young woman named Mary.

Theologically, Christmas is the thanksgiving and celebration of the incarnation of God in Jesus the Christ, the self-revelation of God to the world in human form for the reconciliation of humanity to Himself.

Today I will focus on the Christmas story as told in Luke’s Gospel: Here the images of a mother and the birth of a baby in a stable and the pastoral scene of shepherds watching their sheep by night, suddenly visited by choir of angels, captures our attention and our imagination.

Let me briefly describe the scene for you: Just outside Bethlehem there were shepherds working in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.Without warning, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of God shone around them, and they were terrified.But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see – I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord.This will be a sign for you; you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manager’.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace, good will among people!’

(Gospel of Luke, Chapter 2, verses 8-14)

I have already, very briefly, explained the historical and the theological significance of Christmas.Now I want to focus on the personal meaning of Christmas: What is the significance and meaning of Christmas for you and me, today?

The answer is very clear: Christmas, the birth of the Son of God as a human being, impacts our lives in wonderful ways, every day!

The story in Luke makes it clear: The birth of Jesus has universal significance.It is not just a family matter, no: God came into the world, the whole world, and everybody is touched by it.That is why the angels did not appear to Mary and Joseph alone, but they came to the most unlikely people in the most unlikely of circumstances.They came to simply, ordinary people like you and me, to shepherds working late into the night, going about their business, and watching their flock by night.Heaven and earth came together in an unlikely encounter that expressed with joy that God became a human being to reconcile all people to him.

The shepherd scene in the Christmas story demonstrates possibility in the face of the impossible.Everything is possible because God is God, because he is the kind of God who reveals himself to us.He exists, he is here, and we can see, hear and touch him – in Jesus Christ.Everything become possible when we meet Jesus face to face, and we are amazed.The birth of the Son of God in Jesus fills us with wonder and awe, because the most amazing event in universal history is presented in simplicity: God gives himself to us, in this baby.God, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, makes himself helpless and vulnerable, dependant on human parents for his very survival; yet this baby is called Immanuel, God with us, Christ the Lord, our Saviour.He will change the world and all humanity.He will change you and me.This God is indeed with us.He is God-with-everyone.This God, in Jesus, is God-with you and me.

I want to encourage you to receive the blessing of God in Jesus this Christmas and to receive the greatest gift; possibility in the face of the impossible.Receive Jesus Christ into your life.Say with me: “God, in Jesus, is God-with-me. Let us focus on how God-with-us in Jesus makes a difference for other people around us: We must be focused on being involved in active participation with our community and with one another, like the shepherds, who shared the good news they received from the angels.We must give committed time to build each other up and to help one another.We must extend compassion to all and work for the common good – as we pray in the Gambian National Anthem – no matter how different other people are from us, no matter how different their stations in life are from ours.

We must be open to God through prayer and listen to God with a humble spirit.We must deepen our pastoral commitment in all our relationships with one another, our families and communities, the nation and the world.

Our committed time and effort must build up all parts of our families and communities– with mutual respect, in the spirit of friendship.Let us give pastoral care, support and service to all – especially to children and young people.This is the universal significance of the good news of Jesus Christ: peace on earth, good will to all. May the birth of Christ inspire us to love our neighbours as ourselves and act to build one another up in harmony, goodwill and unity and let our presence foster peace in our families, peace in our communities, peace in our nation and peace throughout the world, expressed through our own words and our own actions.We must continue to pray for peace.We must not become weary.We must not give up.

Let us always remember the song of the angels: Peace on earth, good will to all, today and forever.Let us be modern-day shepherds, let the peace of God be our constant message.As the shepherds hurried to welcome Jesus in the stable, so let us hurry to welcome Jesus into our own lives and let us share the glad tidings, let us share peace, let us share the good news of Jesus Christ.

As I close, let us hear again what the angels sang: ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace, good will among people! I want to encourage you all, everybody in this beautiful country of Gambia, to blossom through the love of God revealed in Jesus, God-with-us, and to become beacons of hope, even as the birth of Jesus brought hope.The birth of Jesus in us, today, brings a hope that continues to remind us: Tremendous possibility can come forth apparently impossible and seemingly insignificant beginnings and circumstances, because they are filled with the power of God.

May God Almighty fill our hearts and minds with joy, hope, peace and love as we celebrate this Christmas.

To His Excellency the President of the Republic of The Gambia, Sheikh Professor Alhajie Dr. Yahya A.J.J Jammeh, the Vice-President Ajaratou Dr. Isatou Njie-Saidy, the Religious Leaders, the Legislative, the National Assembly members and to the entire nation of The Gambia, I wish you all a blessed Christmas.