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A Christmas Message from St George's College, Jerusalem

Posted on: December 10, 2002 3:45 PM
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by S Ross Jones

Merry Christmas to all of you from St George's College Jerusalem. As we celebrate our Lord's birth, it is time for us to pause and reflect a bit on how easily the circumstances in this land consume our total attention. Certainly no one wants to ignore those circumstances, but Christmas rightly brings us back to the fact that we are more - more than victims of strife. We are holy people: holy because we are in God's image; holy because God loves us; holy because God became as we are.

As I sat in the Arabic service at St George's Cathedral yesterday, I reflected on what a great congregation it was in spirit, in numbers for Jerusalem, in music, etc. It was a privilege to be a part of it. The rest of the world would look at that small gathering in the face of a culture that would just as soon Christianity disappear, and wonder what they really felt. My conviction is that these congregations do not survive because of the faith of those who attend, though faith is certainly there. They survive because the Holy Spirit has a way of working through people in more ways than people think is happening. These people would not think of themselves as being heroic, but simply as doing what they have always done. At one level there is no consciousness of trying to keep Christianity alive or preserving it for the future. Yet I am convinced that the Holy Spirit is working through them.

Joseph and Mary probably did not consider themselves to be extraordinary in any way, either. Yet our Lord chose them to benefit us all. It could equally well be happening to any of us today. Our Christmas is not just to celebrate what happened in Bethlehem so many years ago, but also to rejoice that God could work through every one of us in ways that we would never suspect. No one goes to Church because they aspire to be a Joseph or Mary, but our daily life is holy in a way that we must not ignore. It is deeply humbling to be a priest at the altar on Christmas Day and see so many people routinely acknowledging the fact that God loved them enough to become as they are, even as they may well be questioning their own belief. The Spirit is working through normal Palestinian Christians for the survival of the Church here, and I am convinced the same is true everywhere. There is just no dramatic crisis to highlight it so people get caught up in petty conflicts. This year is a time for all of us to think in small terms rather than global ones. Don't think of ultimate ends, but of what we normal humans can do.

Bishop George Browning of Canberra, Australia, made a moving announcement in an ordination sermon the day before Advent. After chronicling both terrorism and injustice around the world (thinking particularly of the Middle East) and noting that we must not condemn the one without the other, he said he would eat nothing from dawn till evening each day until Christmas in solidarity with those who suffer unjustly. Further he would be at an appointed place each day from noon to 1:00 pm and invited others - Christians, Muslims, or Jews - to join him in a mutual witness.

Celebrate your Christmas in wonderful freedom and thank God for the gift of a Son who became a normal human being so we can know that "normal" is really much more than "human". We just need to help God a bit. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

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The Very Revd S Ross Jones is dean of St George's College Jerusalem