In a year scarred with wars, an escalating climate crisis and crushingly-high living costs, Australia’s church leaders have urged people in distress to embrace Christmas as a time of hope.
Wesley Mission chief executive officer and superintendent, Reverend Stu Cameron, said the world had become more “volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous”.
“The war in Ukraine, pushed to the margins of our news feeds, continues to exact a terrible toll, while in Israel and Gaza, unimaginable suffering threatens to spill across many borders,” Rev Cameron said in his Christmas message.
Jesus was not distant from pain and grief, but able to transform it from “hopelessness to hope”, he said.
“Both the story of Christmas, and the ensuing life, death and resurrection of Jesus declares with life-transforming clarity that Jesus isn’t distant from our pain, but one intimately acquainted with our grief,” he said.
Some leaders also reflected on the failed vote on an Indigenous voice to parliament and more frequent and severe weather events caused by the warming climate.
The Primate of the Anglican Church of Australia, Archbishop Geoffrey Smith, said the high cost of living was also piling pressure on households, especially low income families and renters.
“As a nation we seem exhausted,” he said.
“As communities and individuals, we are carrying a heavy burden and a weariness.”
“But the good news of Christmas is that God did not disconnect but in fact leans into the world with all its challenges.”
Australian Baptist Ministries national ministries director Reverend Mark Wilson urged people to remember the true meaning of Christmas.
“Everything about the coming of Christ contrasts with the ways in which we ‘celebrate the season’,” he said.
“We embrace the culture of consumption with little more than a sideways glance at the claims of Christ.”
President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Archbishop Timothy Costelloe, said Christmas was a time to hear God’s call to us.
“May this be a time of deep happiness, of reconciliation and peace, and of joyful hope for the future for you, your families and all those who are dear to you,” he said.
“A happy and holy Christmas to you all.”