Today’s reflection is the joint message from Christian leaders across Wales, followed by Bishop Gregory’s Christmas message in Welsh and English.
Despite the chaotic circumstances in so many situations, may Christmas still bring its blessings and the New Year fresh hope.
With my prayers; pob bendith,
The Anglican Archbishop of Wales, Andrew John, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Cardiff and Bishop of Menevia, Mark O’Toole, and the Moderator of the Free Church Council of Wales, Simon Walkling, are issuing a joint message which acknowledges the tensions and tragedies in the world today and invites people to church to reflect and pray for peace.
The news has been full of the terrible tragedy unfolding in Gaza after the awful terrorist attack on Israel. Thousands of children killed in a war they did not choose. It seems a long way from the Christmas adverts here and the pressure to be merry. It is understandable that the church leaders in Jerusalem have invited Christians there to forego any unnecessarily festive activities and stand strong with those facing affliction. They see it as standing in support of those continuing to suffer, just as Jesus did by being born as a baby in Bethlehem two thousand years ago.
Jesus was born in a land occupied by the Romans. He was born away from home because of an imperial census. There were family tensions around Mary being pregnant and Jesus was laid in a feeding trough because there was no room at the inn. Herod killed the boys in Bethlehem to get rid of the threat to his power. All these are part of Christmas, along with our joy at God’s love and the traditions which help us celebrate.
This Christmas we may be aware of tensions in families, and the difficulties of making ends meet. This year we remember the wars in the land of Jesus’ birth, Ukraine and other parts of the world. We also remember that this year was the centenary of the Wales Women’s Peace Appeal which took a petition to America about joining the League of Nations to promote ‘Law not War’. It was a message signed by around 60% of women in Wales and went from home to home and hearth to hearth, showing what the co-ordinated work of ordinary people could achieve.
We need peace in our world. We may want to be free of tension in our families. We may long for five minutes of peace for ourselves in all the Christmas preparations. Why not come to church to find space to reflect and make time to pray for peace this Christmas? We are praying for joy and hope for us all.
Bishop Gregory’s message:
“Mae’n stori hyfryd, ond…”
Mae pawb ohonom yn gyfarwydd â stori geni Iesu – y stabl, y bugeiliaid, y doethion a’r seren. Ond pa wahaniaeth mae hi’n ei wneud heddiw? Mae Cristnogion yn credu ei bod yn dangos ymroddiad llwyr Duw i’r ddynoliaeth ac i’r blaned neilltuol hon ymhlith miliynau. Oherwydd credwn fod y dyn, Iesu, hefyd yn Dduw a ddaeth yn un ohonom ni, a byw bywyd go iawn â’i holl bleserau a phroblemau. Credwn i Dduw ddod atom yn faban, oherwydd ei awydd i gydsefyll â merched a dynion.
Ydi hi’n fwy na stori neis? Rydw i’n credu ei bod, oherwydd os yw’n wir, ac rydw i’n argyhoeddedig ei bod hi, yna mae’n newid realiti yn sylfaenol. Mae Duw wedi rhoi arwydd pendant ei fod yn dymuno i ddynoliaeth lwyddo, tyfu y tu hwnt i’n dioddefiadau, a goresgyn drygioni yn y byd hwn. Wrth ddarllen am erchyllterau a gyflawnwyd ar Iddewon neu Balestiniaid, am y driniaeth arswydus a gaiff pobl dlawd neu ffoaduriaid, gallwn ddweud nid yn unig bod Duw yn dymuno gweld cyfiawnder yn teyrnasu, ond ei fod hefyd yn ymroi i roi’r nerth a’r dewrder i bobl i sicrhau newid. Ar hyd y canrifoedd, mae stori’r Nadolig wedi rhoi’r ysbrydoliaeth a’r anogaeth i filoedd i sefyll dros yr hyn sy’n iawn, ac i weithredu mewn cariad. Bydded hyn yn wir am bob un ohonom sy’n fodlon gwrando ar gân yr angylion.
“It’s a nice story, but …”
We all know the story of the birth of Jesus – the stable, the shepherds, the wise men and the star. What difference does it make today? Christians believe that it demonstrates God’s total commitment to humanity and to this one planet amongst millions, because we believe that the man, Jesus, was also God becoming one of us, living a real life with all its joys and problems. We believe that God became a baby, so much did he wish to be in solidarity with women and men.
Is this anything more than a nice story? I believe so, for if it is true, and I for one am convinced, then it radically alters reality. God has given a decisive indication that he wants humanity to succeed, to grow beyond our sufferings, and to overcome evil in this world. When we read of atrocities inflicted on Jew or Palestinian, of horrible penalties being rained down on the poor or the refugee, we can say that God not only wants to see justice established but is committed to giving the strength and courage to people to enable change. Down through the centuries, thousands have found in the Christmas story the inspiration and encouragement to stand up for right, and to act in love. Let this be true for each of us willing to listen to the song of the angels.