Christ is Born,
The joyous time of the Christmas Season is once again upon us, and we reflect once more upon a year gone by. For all of us there have been joys and disappointments. Putting it simply this is the nature of life. Many things have changed in the world, since the birth of Christ, but then many have unfortunately remained the same. Selfishness, greed and violence are still with us even after 2,000 years of Christianity. All of these things lead ultimately to conflict and war. This in turn leads to the relocation of families and sometimes whole communities. The Holy Family had to relocate due the threat of violence by the political power of King Herod.
Many of our own families in the eparchy here in Australia have a story similar to the account of Mary and Joseph seeking a place where the infant Jesus could be born. The Holy Family is a model of displaced families. Our stories are usually the story of displaced persons. The Christmas story leads us to consider displaced persons in our time, be they the victims of the Second World War or are Bosnian refugees.
The Christmas icon tells us this same story of displacement and persecution. It also tells us that God is God and good will always triumph despite appearances. Christ was born essentially in a cave, the poorest of the poor. On the other hand the Jewish shepherds and the foreign wise men, being present at Jesus’ birth, cuts across the social norms and prejudices of the day and indeed challenges our own social prejudices. The presence of both these groups of people is no coincidence. Their presence is meant to challenge us. We live in a multi cultural society in Australia. We are called to see Christ in everyone whom we meet. There is no such thing as a perfect world, not even on television. The Christmas icon shows the normal problems of life that Jesus’ family had. The main and central figure of the icon is Jesus Himself. Everything else in the icon is a symbol of what will happen, what lead up to the birth of Christ, and the current reality of the un-empowered dealing with life
On the other hand the icon shows us a sense of profound peace…We have different groups of people: the shepherd with the flute is a sign of peace deliberately inserted into the icon to show that Jesus is the carrier of peace into the world. The ox and the donkey are not mentioned in the Gospels at all. They are mentioned in the book of Isaiah. “The ox knows his owner and the donkey his masters crib, but Israel does not know me and the people have no regard for me” (Isaiah 1:3). This is a symbol of Christ bringing peace to all people and all things. The angels show the connection between this world and the next.
What does this tell us? It tells us that the birth of Jesus was pretty much the same as all of our lives. It has joy and sadness. It would be nice if we found time during the Christmas season to take the time to have a look at the Christmas icon and look for some of these details.
In the life of our church now, we have much to be glad about. We have begun the process of Vision 2020. This is an eight year process of renewal in our parishes. In our Eparchy we have already begun this. The patriarch has explained to us the necessity of looking for new ways in which to bring people closer to God. This is a process of spiritual growth. It will bring us closer to our spiritual roots.
May the blessings of the new born Jesus come upon us all and may we experience the joy and the hope that Jesus brings.
+ Bishop Peter Stasiuk