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From Our Bishops

Archbishop’s Christmas Message 2011

In the darkness, light has shined.

The days have shortened and darkness gathers longer and more deeply. The world has darkened in other ways, too. The recent Occupy movement around the world, including those encamped next door to our Cathedral and Synod office, show the breadth and depth of public alarm for the brokenness of our world’s economic order. The European debt crisis and its effects on the poor, distress about climate change, reports of the abysmal conditions on Canadian First Nations reserves, the fatal despair of victims of bullying—these are the headlines our news. This darkness can seem overwhelming.

It is into this world of fear, despair and sin that Jesus came and continues to come today, both as judge and as saviour. The hopeful message is a judgment: the world we know is not the way God intends it to be. The hopeful message of Christmas is that God does not abandon us to despair, nor does God seek to destroy the world and us in righteous anger. Rather, God comes to us in love to invite us into a new relationship with him, with each other and with the whole of creation. God, the author and source of all life, comes into our midst to give us life in all its abundance.  God gifts us with his gracious Spirit to do what we cannot do ourselves.

John’s gospel opens with this stunning word of hope, “What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”

In Jesus we see the very image of God in human life. “We have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

Jesus, whose birth we celebrate this season, teaches profound wisdom but does more. He changes peoples’ lives. He gives sight to the blind, heals the sick and restores them to productive life, forgives sinners and restores them to community. He gives life back to the dead, physically and spiritually.

His death on the Cross and his Resurrection on Easter demonstrates God’s ultimate triumph over all that would alienate and destroy us.

St. Paul says, “Therefore, beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labour is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58).

In the light of God’s love, celebrated especially at the great Christian feasts of Christmas and Easter, we can make a difference in our own lives and the lives of others by choosing to offer what Christ offers. Violence, domination, greed or despair do not ultimately win. They are evils to be resisted, whether in individuals or in society. It begins in each of us. The peace that Christ offers is not just the absence of war but showing the spirit of goodwill to all we encounter. The readiness to go the extra mile, the patience to support a loved one or friend in a difficult situation, the willingness to listen to another burdened with a particular concern, being present with someone terminally ill, or giving to a cause that changes lives.

May we embrace the spirit of this Christmas season as we sing carols, listen to scripture and offer prayers for others. As we gather with our loved ones, let us remember the many who have no one to care for or love them, and respond as we are able to the needs of others. The peace that the world desires has to begin with each of us. If we choose to be better brothers, sisters, parents, friends and neighbours, what a difference it could make in our homes, places of work and communities in which we live and our world!

May the bright lights of Christmas be a sign of the Light of World who overcomes the darkness.  May our gift-giving and festive meals become living heralds of a new world where all can find a place at the table.  May we with infectious joy and with active hope celebrate this feast of God’s great gift of love, his son Jesus Christ, for the salvation of the world.

May you have a blessed Christmas.

The Most Rev. Colin R. Johnson,
Archbishop of Toronto