In our weekly “Belief matters” column we have taken a look at various faith issues, often within the context of how they affect LGBTI communities – or from the perspective of LGBTI people of faith.
Today, being Christmas Day, we are publishing a message from the Moderator of the Church of Scotland, the Rt Rev Dr Angus Morrison. While his words are not focused on LGBTI issues, or even on Scotland, the substance of his message – the vitality of faith in action and the importance of love-filled lives – is one that people of all beliefs can identify with.
Christmas is the season of renewed hope as well as joyful celebration. Through the birth of baby Jesus, God came in love to the world.
Christmas takes us to the central mystery of the Christian faith – the recognition that in this miraculous child, God himself is with us all.
Jesus, the Christ child, the Prince of Peace, was also called Emmanuel – which means ‘God with us’.
By sending Jesus to be with us, God promises to help us restore our community. Through Jesus, God promises to reconcile all things.
Yet this Christmas, our world seems far from peaceful. It’s easy to feel disheartened by so much conflict and fear, by random terrorist attacks killing ordinary people.
Troubling too is the growth of loneliness, especially among older people, who may live alone and far from their families. One study found that more than one in five older Britons feel lonely all the time.
These two problems are quite different. Yet they both come from being divided, separated and fragmented. And the deep truth of our being is that we truly exist only in relationship with God, with one another and with creation.
Christmas reminds us that reconciliation is the good news. When we make peace, reconcile and care for one another we can hope our fractured community will be healed. Jesus said, ‘Blessed are the peace-makers; they shall be called children of God.’
Peace-making is about pursuing a change of hearts and minds. It is about exchanging hatred for love.
It is of course the duty of governments to seek justice and to protect their people. As I write British forces are again engaged in armed conflict. Good people can disagree on whether this is the right course of action, but we must respect one another’s integrity and we must pray for our military and their families, who, on our behalf, look danger in the face every day.
The problems of the world might seem too big for us to solve. But by opening our hearts to God’s grace and love we can find strength act to make peace where we are and care for those whose lives touch ours.
So this Christmas, let’s by simple faith receive God’s gift of love and put that love to work in our own lives.
Two friends, a minister and a soap manufacturer had long discussions about Christian faith and belief. Again and again the minster heard that Christianity did not work.
Then, as the pair walked down the road, they spotted a dirty child. The minister turned to his friend and said, ‘Your soap doesn’t work.’ In his defence, the soap manufacturer said, ‘The soap has to be applied – it has to be used.’
Exactly. The love has to be used.
The message we celebrate at Christmas must be practiced in our lives and in our communities. Then we will see in our world the coming of the Kingdom of the Prince of Peace. To all of you, I wish a happy and peace-filled Christmas.