Emmanuel - God is with us!
Below is a Christmas message from Rev Merlyn Hyde Riley, President of the Jamaica Council of Churches
Bad news seems to be order of the day! Our daily media platforms scream with news of murder, mayhem, misuse and mistreatment; social media spews unfiltered and unfettered stories of debauchery, decadence, depravity and disorder. This scene is not confined to Jamaica, but we experience it in very pointed and painful ways given the scale at which life-taking and life-denying acts and behaviours transpire in this beloved country of ours.
One can well understand why in Jamaica, a country with a rich history of Christian heritage, many wonder 'where is God?'. This is a question found on the lips of the faithful and on the lips of the sceptic and cynic. We hear echoes of Psalm 42:10 from the mouths of some sceptics, 'where is your God?' and from the mouths of some seekers, words of Jeremiah 8:22, 'is there no balm in Gilead?
Christmas is a refreshing and timely response to those questions. The season is a telling reminder that God is with us; that God became incarnate in Jesus, having been born of a woman. He was fully human, and in his humanity he lived on the earth and experienced hunger and thirst, temptation,exhaustion, pain and grief, suffering and death. God entered into solidarity with us, human beings, and is present with us in the in the depths of our human finitude.
Yes, Christmas is a challenge to an increasingly secular society which rejects the God of justice and righteousness whilst embracing the kingdom and powers of this world; it confronts a society still occupied by the likes of Herod whose ruthlessness, lies, deception, evil practices and murderous acts create fear and hopelessness among many. Christmas makes a statement that God's plans cannot be thwarted by human actions. Evil will never have the last word. Since God is with us, we need not despair but instead we continue to pray "Thy Kingdom Come thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven" (Matt 6:10).
God is with us in his ministry of forgiveness, healing of the sick, feeding of the hungry and thirsty, clothing of the naked, with the imprisoned who cry out for help. He comes to us in word and sacrament and in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, but our present experience of God's presence is at best incomplete. We are conscious that God's justice and peace have not been fully realised, God's work of salvation is unfinished and so may our work and witness be a source of hope to the world. God with us in Jesus Christ is faithful and will not abandon his people.
May you experience the joy and peace of Christmas and may this extend into the New Year, knowing that God is with you.