Celebrating the birth of the Child Jesus, who brings the light of hope and salvation into the world, Dr Musa Panti Filibus, the President of the Lutheran World Federation, invites us to consider the unexpected circumstances of Jesus’ birth, and reminds us that we can trust in God’s promises, just as Mary and Joseph did on that first Christmas.
Christmas Message of Dr Musa Filibus
Dear friends, sisters and brothers in Christ,
Once again we gather to celebrate the birth of Jesus and to listen to the familiar verses telling of His birth in a stable in Bethlehem.
Yet as we prepare for Christmas this year, we are painfully aware of how unfamiliar this season will look for many of us unable to gather with those we love, unable to worship in our churches, or sing our traditional Christmas carols together face-to-face. Since the start of 2020, all of us have been coping with the unfamiliar, unprecedented challenges brought by the coronavirus pandemic. We have watched with fear and anxiety as the disease spread from one country to another, one continent to another, and, most painfully, claiming hundreds of thousands of lives. We have had to adapt to the many dramatic changes imposed by quarantine restrictions, as governments and communities struggle to protect their people, and to stop spread of the virus.
Yet, we have often been encouraged by the many stories of solidarity and support offered by our churches to those most affected by the lockdowns, those who have lost their source of income, or those were found themselves isolated, lonely, and in dire need at this time. We have been inspired by stories of innovative ways in which churches have nurtured connections between people to worship, serve, and witness to the Gospel.
But for many of us, preparing to welcome Jesus into our homes and our hearts this traditional season of joy and celebration, may continue to be one of uncertainty and fear for the future. As we read the familiar Bible verses, though, we can imagine that Mary and Joseph must have had similar fears for themselves and the future of their Child. Giving birth in a stable far from their loved ones, surrounded by animals, and a straw-filled manager for a crib was surely not what they had imagined for the birth of their Child. As the Gospel narratives unfold, we know that they too continued to experience fear and uncertainty as they fled into exile in Egypt.
And yet, we know that the birth of this Child, laid in a manager, and welcomed by humble shepherds, will bring new hope and new light to a dark world. Despite the unexpected, unplanned, messy circumstances of His birth, we know that this Boy is the Messiah, the Son of God and Prince of Peace, who gives new life to all who believe in Him.
Therefore, we, too, can trust in that promise, just as Mary and Joseph did. We can listen again to the story of God's coming into the world to bring light and life and hope. And amid all the difficulties we continue to encounter, may you find new hope as you hear the familiar words of the Gospel again, and as you find new ways of worshipping and celebrating this year’s Christmas online or in-person, as the circumstances allow.
May the light shine in the darkness of our lives and the lives of all people, as it did for the shepherds surprised by the angels of that first Christmas night. And may the birth of the Baby in Bethlehem, the newness of Heaven, bring unexpected joy to you all and your families this Christmas season.
I wish you a happy and blessed Christmas.