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For Such a Time as This

Christmas TreeThe General's 2011 Christmas Message

HOW relevant is the Christmas story for the 21st century? It is celebrated every year with carols, trees, glitter, lights and gifts, but is the coming of Jesus into the world of any significance for such a time as this? More than two thousand years separate us. Where are the points of connection? The answer becomes clear when we look at two groups that played a central role in the first Christmas - the wise men and the shepherds. The two groups have often been contrasted, emphasising the differences of occupation, religious background and learning. However, what they have in common may be what relates to us now.

Both groups were men of reflection, the wise men studying the heavens, looking for signs; the shepherds with their long evening hours thinking of their occupied homeland and wondering when the promised Messiah would come. Surely there was an expectation that something would happen, must happen, to bring peace to the world. Would such reflection give birth to hope? I think so.

Both groups experienced a divine intervention - a revelation. The shepherds were visited by an angelic host announcing the birth of the Saviour of the world. The wise men saw a star which became their guiding light to lead them to the Christ child. These two groups of very different men responded to the supernatural events and moved out of their comfort zones. Both shepherds and wise men took the divine signs seriously. An action of faith was needed and they took it.

God never disappoints. For both groups, the realisation was all that God had promised. The Saviour King was born. And whether it was kneeling at a manger or giving gifts to the child, shepherds and wise men all saw the face of God, the face of love in Jesus, Saviour of the world!

This past year has been a time of unparalleled natural disasters, economic troubles and political upheavals. For such a time as this, reflecting on this world and perhaps even our own needs, there could be cause for despair. Yet Christmas is about hope, as it was two thousand years ago. Jesus not only came, he lived and died for the world. And he lives today! That gives us hope.

We may not see a host of angels this Christmas or a guiding star, but God will come to each one of us in a discernible way, as he did to the shepherds and the wise men. We may choose to conclude that it is just the annual spirit of Christmas but it is God making himself known to us. How we react to it will be a matter of faith, a case of rising from our watch in the fields or following the star, so to speak. And if we do leave our comfort zone to seek the God who seeks us, we will discover that he is real, just as the shepherds and the wise men did.

He is love. We are loved. The Saviour of the world came to earth many years ago but he also comes today to us, to you, to me.

General Linda Bond

(photo credit: freefoto.com)

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