Finding your heart in the Christmas story
A good and wise retired minister handed me a copy of a story by the Brothers Grimm — The Three Languages — just to enjoy, which I certainly did.
We love stories, even if they don’t all have a happy ending, because a story speaks to our heart with a rich array of meanings far better than a statement of theory and principle.
One story that we love to hear over and over again in the Christmas season is the story of the young woman named Mary who gave birth to her first son, wrapped him in cloth and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn.
This fragile babe laid in a manger was God’s faithful response for his people — a fulfilment of prophecy. As humble and vulnerable the birth of this child was, he was a great and joyful event meant for everybody worldwide.
Ironically, we hear tales with similarities to the Christmas story too often these days because of the harsh reality of the phenomenal increase in the numbers of refugees in many parts of the world. Tens of thousands of women like Mary and children like baby Jesus are fleeing their countries and some unfortunately drowning helplessly like the four-year-old Syrian boy swept ashore in Turkey.
The truth of the Christmas story will not be found extravagantly wrapped under a decorated Christmas tree, for Christ the king was born not in a palace chamber but in a stable. And we will hear the true Christmas message of God’s enduring faithfulness in such things as a simple act of courage, and witness his kindness in a green shoot that appears after a bush fire.
In September I attended our partner church’s 100th Assembly meeting in Korea. While I was there I heard a story about a great gift that Robert Thomas, the first Protestant Christian missionary to Korea, had given. Unfortunately, Thomas was captured and executed on his arrival on Korean shores. He did not have much chance to preach the gospel but at his execution he offered his bible to the executioner saying, “Please take this bible!” The executioner who received this accidental gift of Thomas became an elder of the first Korean church.
In late October I went to the launch of a community garden at Mt. Colah Uniting Church. There I saw an example of the spirit of Christmas with members of the Church, setting up a veggie garden along with a meditative peace garden wanting to foster a spirit of community. I was so proud to stand there hearing the local member of parliament praising the Church’s role in the life of the community!
On a beautiful Saturday morning in November, I joined the ‘Welcome to Australia’ Walk along with many fellow Sydney-siders behind pickets raising our Synod’s “Give Hope” campaign banner high. People walked together, side-by-side proclaiming, “Refugees are welcome here”. Who could, and should, be more understanding of the plight of refugees than we Australians, of whom, one in three, have had the experience of leaving their homeland and settling in a foreign land.
The young man who learned to talk to animals in the Grimm’s fairy tale, the executed Robert Thomas, the members of Mt Colah Uniting Church, those who walk behind banners in solidarity with refugees all tell us something about the truth of the Christmas story.
In this festive season, may I wish you a new awareness of the very special blessing which came from the Christmas story, and may we each receive it with a spirit of humility and a spirit of generosity and be able to simply enjoy it!
The Moderator, Rev. Myung Hwa Park