World Council of Churches’ 2016 Christmas message

Posted Dec 14, 2016

Drawing by Massa Zahdeh, Dar Al-Kalima School, Bethlehem.

[World Council of Churches] Christmas is a celebration of Jesus, the Christ. In this celebration we can see the mystery of the good being present in the midst of the ordinary, even in the midst of evil. It is a moment to ignite a light in darkness. Christmas is an opportunity to celebrate the presence of the God of life in a world where death is all too present.

As Christians are celebrating Christmas, we renew our faith that the glory of God is shining in our midst. We celebrate that this happened through Jesus Christ, born by a woman as a human being, with all the potential of love and all the vulnerability that belongs to being a newborn child.

There is no other way of being a human than by first being a child. As children we are given life through others; we need to be fed and we need to be clothed, we need the care of those around us, we need to learn from others, we need to be protected from dangers, violence, and illness. We need to belong to somebody, somewhere.

Today many children are presented with enormous possibilities for their present and future lives. They are significant persons in their families, communities, homeland and in the globalized world. In all countries of the world they also face challenges, risks, even threats. Some are exposed to this much more than others, and much more than children should ever experience. This happens through conflicts, violence and other attacks on their vulnerable bodies and souls. Many children today, in greater numbers than we have seen since World War II, are refugees fleeing from their homes and protected living.

This is also the story of the Son of God. The biblical narratives of the birth of Jesus convey all these dimensions of human life: care and love, as well as the enormous risks and threats to life. King Herod committed the gravest sin by killing all children in the area where Jesus was born to eradicate the threats to his power. Jesus and his family became refugees in Egypt.

As the World Council of Churches, we affirm the role of churches in addressing the needs of children. We encourage one another to be at the forefront of offering care and protection for those who are most vulnerable among us, particularly those who are wounded and are refugees.  We want to make more contributions in this respect, embodying the qualities of child-friendly, caring and protecting churches.

This year our Christmas greeting is made by children in Bethlehem. Their drawings are marvelous expressions of the beauty of life in the birthplace of Jesus, as well as the limitations and even threats to their lives through the ongoing occupation with its walls and wires. From the context of Bethlehem today their drawings give hope to all humanity. This corresponds to the hope we are given through the birth of Jesus long ago in Bethlehem. Seen through the eyes of children, this hope is even more costly and shining ever more clearly, to all children in danger, to all human beings of all ages and in all places, longing together for the kingdom of the Prince of Peace.

May the children of Bethlehem experience signs of the kingdom of the Prince of Peace, the child who was born in their beautiful city! Let us celebrate Christmas, wherever we are, and may the love and care of God for all God’s children fill our hearts and guide our steps forward on our common pilgrimage of justice and peace!

Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit
General Secretary
World Council of Churches