The Archbishop of Canterbury's Ecumenical Christmas Letter
Thursday 22nd December 2016
Read the Archbishop's Christmas letter to churches around the world
Christmas 2016, Lambeth Palace, London
Greetings in the name of Jesus, the Word made flesh who by the action of God and the obedience of His blessed Mother, the God bearer, came to dwell among us, Emmanuel.
In November, I visited Pakistan to express solidarity with Christian communities across the country, which have suffered much over recent years. We remember the slaughter of innocent worshippers on Easter Sunday 2016 in Lahore, and before that the attack on worshippers in Peshawar at Christmas 2013 and many other incidents. Such attacks are not only designed to inflict appalling suffering but also to sow fear in the heart of Christian, and other minority communities. During the visit I spoke with some of the survivors of these attacks, and I was deeply moved and humbled by their extraordinary courage in continuing to be faithful witnesses of Jesus. They spoke of knowing now more than ever that Jesus is the Good Shepherd.
In many parts of our troubled, uncertain world, Christian minority communities along with other minorities are being similarly targeted. In some places, this is motivated by a desire to eradicate the indigenous Christian presence completely. These are acts not only of terror but of genocide; criminal acts for which the international community must bring those guilty to account. Yet although so vulnerable and often forgotten and marginalised, our brothers and sisters are being courageous in the Lord. Indeed, ‘God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong’ (1 Corinthians 1.27).
In other places conflict and corruption have become so normal that the world forgets the suffering of the poor.
I ask your prayers for those of us who live in safety that we may not be bystanders afar off, beating our breasts as we retire to the security of our homes, but that we may draw nearer to the cross of Jesus, stand there alongside our suffering brothers and sisters and be ready to take our part in practical action for change. I pray that Christ will strengthen all his people in our inner being with power through the Holy Spirit to be faithful, to have courage and to live in hope.
More than ever we need Christ like communities proclaiming the good news of the gospel in word and action. In many countries there is no persecution but there is apathy and complacency which leads us, in the striking words of Pope Francis, to be practical atheists.
The measure of a Christ-like community is the extent to which it holds the vulnerable and marginalised of the world at the centre of its life. Jean Vanier, the founder of L’Arche, helped the Primates of the Anglican Communion to see this at our meeting in January this year. He has said elsewhere: ‘To live with Jesus is to live with the poor, to live with the poor is to live with Jesus’ (Community and Growth 1989).
More than ever, we have a strong sense of the unity of Christians. God hears the prayer of the Lord Jesus Christ that we ‘may be one, so that the world may believe that you have sent me’ (John 17. 21) and even now is fulfilling his prayer. While we are deeply conscious today of the ecumenism of blood, we also live in the ecumenism of hope and we are called to an ecumenism of action. To live with the vulnerable and marginalised, with Jesus Christ at the centre of our communities and at the heart of our ecumenical relations, to act together out of love and in love, love that is the fruit of the Holy Spirit, is also to live as those who sow hope. Jesus said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life’ (John 8.12). John the Evangelist, in words that will be heard in many of our churches during the forthcoming Christmas season, also strengthens us with this message: ‘The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it’ (John 1.5).
In our common celebration of the light of Jesus coming into the world, may we then encourage and build up one other, and so may the Church in every place, united in suffering and in hope, shine with his light and act with his strength, today.
The Most Reverend and Right Honourable Justin Welby
Archbishop of Canterbury
The Bishop of Colombo
Christmas Message – December 2016
Another Christmas season dawns, reminding us of the proclamation of the angels; “Peace and Goodwill” to a world in conflict, racked by violence and turmoil, full of uncertainty and fear.
The season of Christmas has two aspects to it and in fact one may even say that there are two parallel Christmases being celebrated in the world today. The first, is the very visible universal celebration, of consumerism, merry making and good cheer. The second, calls us to reflect on and respond to the seminal event of the Incarnation. The Word divesting the nature of the Godhead to become nothing, - a helpless infant totally in the hands of two poor ‘no people’. This ‘second’ Christmas calls us to be renewed and reconciled, having the mind of Christ in us ( Phillipians 2:7).
Because all of us live in this world and are a part of it, we cannot avoid the first intruding on the second. So this external celebration with giant Christmas trees, gift giving, family get togethers, feasting, carol singing and Saint Nicholas have become entwined with the second. But the second call us to sacrifice, self giving and to taking on of the role of servant-disciples, co-workers with God to build a world of Peace and Goodwill among women and men and among all nations.
This message of true Peace is so vital for us, for our country and for our world. It does not come about merely by mouthing the words ‘Peace and Goodwill’ or even by prayer and good intentions alone. It begins when we are prepared to be transformed to have the mind of Christ in us. It begins when we are prepared to step out of our church buildings, our traditional ways of doing things and our comfort zones. Jesus has set us the example. He broke through the tight Jewish traditions when he reached out to the ‘untouchables’ of his day – the tax collectors, the lepers, Samaritans, women, children, collaborators and Romans. This revolutionary step resulted in him being accused, “The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners” (Luke7:34).
Christmas calls all those who take their faith seriously to Step Out.
May we heed that call and May that light of the incarnation dawn in our lives and enlighten us this Christmastide.
With Prayers and Blessings!
Rt. Revd Dhiloraj R. Canagasabey
Bishop of Colombo
7th December 2016
The whole wide world celebrates the birth of one child JESUS, born in Bethlehem, Judea 2016 years ago.
This was possible because of a submissive, faithful, young virgin saying YES to God. She becomes the mother of God and a mother to the whole world.
Her heart was willing, her heart welcomed God, Her heart was strong and brave to bear insult, and even torture.
She was the mother of Love, Prayer and Blessing to all.
This Christmas let us be willing just like Mary to accept God as Jesus into our midst and listen to his still small infant voice.
Can we find him among celebrations, parties, crackers, busy streets? He left all these to be born in a stable outside the city, where only the poor and the gentiles could find.
He gave recognition and dignity to the forgotten poor, and was happy to be in poverty.
Let us ponder on these thoughts as we celebrate Christmas this season.
Holy, Holy, Holy,
Lord God of hosts,
The whole earth is full of your Glory, we greet you this Christmas tide! And we bless you,
With those before us over the centuries and with women and men throughout the world today,
In sanctuaries of prayer, and holy places everywhere,
We offer up our sacrifice of praise,
An offering that joins what is like a great cloud of incense, rising from every age and every nation.
Not just in houses of prayer and corners of reflection,
But in the whole temple of creation,
From the rising of the Sun to its setting, from the beginning of time to its end,
We cry GLORY! Holy Child! Prince of Peace! born among us today.