Christmas message 2018: Rev Keith Garner

As we gather in homes and around tables with family and friends this Christmas we are reminded of the importance of love and acceptance.

For most Australians these things will be self-evident during one of the most important days of the year. We eat, laugh and share gifts. We reflect upon the months that have passed. We talk about our plans for the future and the things we would have like to have done. We pause and feel accepted and connected to something bigger.

However for many Australians this Christmas will be a time of loneliness and despair. Wesley Mission’s Lifeline volunteers will be taking phone calls from hundreds of isolated people and those dealing with complex personal challenges during this time.

In our aged care facilities and our centres for homeless people, those missing the closeness of family or friends will not only receive a hot meal and gifts from our staff and volunteers but the assurance that they matter and are loved unconditionally.

Loneliness can also touch sole parents, children and young people who have been separated from their family through no fault of their own, those who have suffered loss from death or people experiencing mental health challenges.

Yet if we are honest with ourselves, loneliness can affect any one of us: a recent national survey found that one in six Australians are experiencing emotional loneliness. This fact stands starkly against a world where technology has made it possible to be better connected than ever.

Our strong conviction at Wesley Mission is that ‘every life matters’. It comes from the vision that God’s love in Jesus Christ extends to people everywhere. It encompasses all those who seek Him and experience His compassion: this simple truth is at the heart of the Christmas message.

The invitation to sit at God’s table this Christmas began with a child born, in the most humble of circumstances, whose parents were alone, isolated and eventually escaping persecution. God chose this context to send a clear message that in our loneliness there can be new beginnings and that His great love can meet the deepest of our needs and longings. We are not alone.

The infant born in Bethlehem casts light on our dark and lonely world. We do not have to be the captive of our fears or beholden to an anxious future.

This Christmas let us receive this truth and this love into our hearts, exchange selfishness for forgiveness and reach out to others with genuine warmth and compassion

May you and those you love have a truly happy Christmas.

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