How quickly things can change. In the month since the change of government here in Australia there has been a significant shift across the landscape. Suddenly we find ourselves owning the challenges of climate change, facing up afresh to the significant disadvantage suffered by Indigenous Australians, and looking with new eyes at Australia's place in the world. Economic news now draws a dark cloud over 2008 across the world, with most serious impact looming for the less-well-off. A deep malaise seems to have been shaken, and a fresh perspective has taken hold. Where this new-found energy and perspective leads is an open question, but such a significant shift in such a short space of time serves as an important reminder of those who hold to the gospel hope.
Into an oppressed and riven community was born a special child of promise: the long-awaited and anticipated Messiah. But the news was not announced generally for all to hear. It first infiltrated from the margins: announcement of birth to a young lady and her betrothed. Still carrying this news and newly married, they head off to Bethlehem - the wife heavily pregnant - where she gave birth. Again the news was proclaimed to a small and marginal few. Shepherds in the field were the social equivalent of toilet cleaners - yet it was to these that the angels proclaimed the birth of the Christ-child. The news was discovered by some wise men of the East, who came to pay homage while native Israelites remained unaware. Their wisdom extended to warning the parents, leading to the family's flight into Egypt - the very place where Israel had known captivity. When the child came of age, he was proclaimed in the wilderness by a strangely-dressed prophet. He began his ministry by calling as followers fishermen, tax collectors, zealots and the like. Hardly mainstream Israelites. From birth to adulthood, through ministry to death and then on to resurrection, the child of promise gathered the people whom society had discarded or disregarded - hardly the people by whom to wage a peaceful revolution.
Yet as surely as the Christ-child was born, so too hope. In a strange place, amongst odd people, with few recognised resources. But by the power of God this hope has transformed communities, nations, families and individuals through the centuries. In the space of a few short months, from annunciation to birth, the world's landscape was transformed. And we are invited not only to be part of that transformation, but to be transformed by it. In all our frailty, in all our wonder, in all our frustrations... This transformation is to be born in us too!
May the wonder of Christmas, the birth of hope, and the miracle of God-with-us bring new life to your Christmas season, and into God's future.
December 23, 2007