Christmas mission manifests the Body of Christ
So what are you doing over Christmas?
For me this year is a Reid Christmas.
Many years ago my four siblings, I, our spouses and their families managed to agree and organise ourselves so that Christmas would be spent with the Reid family one year and with the in-laws on the alternate year. It has worked fairly well for over 25 years.
Unusually for me, this year I will have no commitments on Christmas Eve or on Christmas Day and so I will be able to travel to Batemans Bay on Christmas Eve and, I hope, be less tired and grumpy than I usually end up being by Christmas dinner.
I am looking forward to it — one of the benefits of being a full-time Moderator.
After Christmas, Paula and I will be leading a group of 48 to build houses for the poor in Tijuana, Mexico — our fifth mission trip to Mexico since 2001. Both our sons, Jonathan and Robert, will be with us, having participated in all four previous mission trips.
Consequently, building houses in Tijuana has become part of our family story and, in particular, has become part of our Christmas story.
This year the group includes a number of families with teenagers, just under half the participants are 30 years of age or under, 15 are over 50, and 30 of the 48 are female.
Although in 2001 the mission trip was made up of 27 participants, largely from Gordon Uniting Church, now about two-thirds are Uniting from across the Synod and beyond and one third is made up of people from the Salvation Army, Anglican and Baptist Churches and those of no particular denomination.
What attracts me about this mission is that it represents the Body of Christ. It takes a team of 15 people from local churches in this Synod to build a house. Those team members bring different gifts — practical, spiritual, organisational. The house is built, the house is blessed and people’s lives are changed and renewed: a living parable of the mission of God in the world.
Yet it is broader than that. The mission team is made up of people from different churches and people with no church affiliation. Yes, the Body of Christ includes people of different theological persuasion as well as those who do not necessarily identify with it but who, maybe, surely, will be transformed by it.
The building of those houses, and many others, would not happen without the commitment of the local churches and their pastors in Tijuana who, through the house-building program, seek to alleviate the suffering of the poor, build relationships and build community.
They are there making connections, building relationships before we arrive and long after we leave. The local churches are supported by Amor Ministries (based in the US), whose role is to provide mission workers, organise the house builders, source the building materials and support the local churches in their mission.
Finally, and most importantly, the people for whom the houses are built — the poor — bring unexpected, beautiful and valuable gifts. Christian or non-Christian, they are part of the transforming work of God in the world through the Body of Christ.
The building project in Tijuana is the Body of Christ manifest across congregations, denominations, national boundaries, different cultures, affluence and poverty.
As the houses are built this Christmas, yet again Christ is born, hope is offered, a new way of being, of seeing the world, opens up for all who are touched.
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