This is how it feels

This is how it feels

I grew up celebrating Christmas Day services outside, in the stands of a showground that looked out to paddocks crisp with December heat.

Standing beside my brothers and mum and dad, with heat rising and sweat blooming in damp patches on everyone’s Very Best Clothes, my favourite bit always came at the end.

“Joy to the world, the Lord has come! Let earth receive her King!”

I remember that feeling so clearly – everyone together, heads back, gifting our words to the sky.

“Let every heart prepare him room… And heaven and nature sing!”

Ten year old me couldn’t have been happier. I loved the idea of heaven and nature joining forces in a wild outpouring of hope. This child changed everything. No matter what, Christmas reaffirmed that we’d get there, somehow. Together. That was how it felt.

Thirty five years later, that refrain still gets me. These days, though, it’s friends around the world I think of when we hit those notes, together, at the end of a service. Is there enough joy to go round?

I’ve never been overseas at Christmas time in my role with UnitingWorld, but I’ve seen what hope and joy looks like through all seasons, fierce on the faces of people in Timor Leste, Sri Lanka and India. Heaven and earth have joined forces, and no matter what, their expressions say, we’ll get there, somehow.

These are the people for whom the birth of Jesus signals more than the conviction that we are loved and saved, bound for a better place when we die. It’s more than a reassuring treasure to be taken out on Sundays and admired by the light of stained glass. No – these are the people for whom God’s choice to break into the world through a peasant girl, a stable and a refugee family means more than an afterlife.

It means life right now.

Yesterday I spoke to one of our partners in Timor Leste, a place with one of the highest rates of malnutrition in the world. 46% of children don’t have enough to eat.

“For me, the love of God is bringing food to the hungry and healthcare to the sick,” my friend said. “That what it means to bring the good news to the poor. It’s helping people see that God is not asleep – God is wide awake in the world. And because of that, life is different.”

The love of the church in Timor Leste means Albie and his friends have nutritious food and a clinic to teach them how to avoid sickness. Life is different.

For Julia in Milne Bay, the love of the United Church of Papua New Guinea means she and her friends have safe, clean water to drink, and are in school instead of walking to nearby creeks several times a day. Life is different.

For Gede in Bali, the love of the Protestant Church of Bali means she and her family have learned to breed goats, and the income they receive helps them send their children to school and pay for medicine. Life is different.

Every person featured on this year’s UnitingWorld Everything in Common Gift Cards could tell a similar story – of hope, of new life. Through the love of God’s people, they’ve received the promise of something better, something brighter. And not just for a season, but for all time.

I look at their faces, and I think of the faces that will gather again this Christmas to claim that Christ has come, and the world is renewed. This is how it feels when heaven and nature sing, when hearts prepare room.

This is how it feels.

By Cath Taylor, UnitingWorld.

UnitingWorld invites you to make a Christmas Gift at www.everythingincommon.com.au. You can help make the love of God real for a child for as little as $15 by helping them stay in school; $50 can provide an income for a family with livelihood training to breed goats or pigs.

Share the opportunity to give with your congregation by clicking on the website section “How to host a gift stall” and find a range of images and videos that help people understand how it feels to have new life through the projects the gift cards represent.

Donate online or by calling 1800 998 122.

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