Rev. John Holder, Anglican Bishop of Barbados and West Indies
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Each year we are caught up in the festivities of Christmas and we make every effort to ensure that we enjoy the day with friends and family. We hear the Christmas story again and there is an invitation to reflect on God’s great act of salvation that we celebrate at this time.
The story tells of the vulnerability of the young pregnant Mary, the insecurity of Herod, the acceptance of the message of Good News by the shepherds in the context of contrasting trying times, and the doubts and later compliance of Joseph that was a journey of faith. All these conditions speak to real issues of life.
The plight of young Mary in the story sends us to reflect on the many young and vulnerable in our community, and in the world, for whom the circumstances of life can create hurdles that may seem insurmountable.
We can all find ourselves in difficult situations searching for a way out. Sometimes the immediate answer may not be the inn that is what we would like or what we think we deserve, but like Mary we may have to settle for something less, knowing that God is with us, and will help us to work for better conditions.
The role of Mary in the Christmas story creates a message that speaks to the several young people out there with great dreams.
There can be setbacks and frustrations as you try to realise your dream. You may well feel that you are not getting what you deserve.
Do not give up. Do not let go of your dream for the inn, that better place and condition that will allow you to make far better use of your skills.
For Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus, the stable was not a permanent barrier.
In spite of the hurdles it created, it became another route used by God to bring about the salvation of the world.
For God can use many ways to lead us to our goal. He wants us, whoever we are, whatever we ,do to be guided by this conviction and so become beacons of hope.
Christmas is a message of hope. Remember the position of Mary, who seemed to settle for less than she deserved.
She and Joseph were prepared to sacrifice a little comfort today, all because by so doing they were laying the foundation for a better future, for a better tomorrow.
The shepherds in the Christmas story also teach us a great lesson about life and hope.
They teach us that even when we are in the dark, when the future seems bleak and we are unsure of where to make the next step, God’s light can break through, and show us a way forward.
The shepherds stepped out in faith to meet the one who is the hope of the world. They travelled through the dark to meet Jesus, the light of the world. They did not sit and wait to experience the promise, but travelled in search of the Good News.
There can hardly be a better lesson for us at this time here in Barbados. Like the shepherds, there are many persons who are longing for the light to point the way to better times. Embrace the message of Christmas that reminds us that there can be light, there can be hope.
Not that there is any magic to put all things right in a hurry. We may have to travel the road, the longer, less comfortable road that Mary travelled in order to experience better times.
On this road we can encounter Herod who is all taken up with his own security and misses out on the larger picture of the salvation of the world. We also meet Joseph with his doubts and fears.
He needs that special attention, that extra word to be assured that all is not lost, and there can be and will be better times.
And above all stands God, our God of hope, who guides us through all the challenges of life. May he grant us at this Christmas time the courage of the shepherds, courage to step out in faith in search of better conditions.
May he grant us the courage to avoid the temptation of Herod and never try to manipulate things to suit our own narrow ends. May he strengthen our faith in his power and promises when we are overwhelmed with doubt like Joseph.
May he fill us with the depth of vision and the patience of Mary for whom the immediate challenge – the relegation to the stables – was not a permanent position but a step along the way to a greater experience of God’s saving grace, through Jesus her son.
We proclaim at this Christmas time, a God who never settles for the stables, but empowers us to move on to where we experience his goodness, in greater abundance and proclaim with the shepherds, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased.
May God grant you a “blessed Christmas and a New Year filled with hope.