Dear Beloved Sisters and Brothers,
The special season of Christmas is here again! What and who is the reason for the season? Yes, Jesus Christ! It is Christ who makes Christmas! We cannot have a true and meaningful Christmas without Christ.
At Christmas, we celebrate the favour of God. Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace on whom his favour rest. The words from Isaiah 9:6: “For a child has been born to us, a son is given to us; upon his shoulders dominion rests” remind us that there is hope for us – that we can be filled with joy, hope and peace, if we make a room for Jesus in the “inn” of our life.
The uniqueness of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ – a uniqueness that cannot be explained by natural processes – makes Christianity unique. This uniqueness demands our allegiance and commitment as believers.
As we reflect upon this past year, I am certain that we each have some reasons to be thankful. As I go around for my pastoral and episcopal visits, it is delightful to witness the many wonderful things in and around our parishes. There is plenty of love and laughter, of joy and confidence in the Gospel, even in the midst of our many struggles. There is a steady increase in Church attendance, a greater involvement of lay people in ministry, and an improved giving. Early in the year, we witnessed the birth of three new parishes: St. Lawrence’s, Sabu, Holy Trinity, Lambir and St. Matthias’s, Tudan. On 17 November, we ordained 5 new priests (Ralpheal Rueben Bonnie, Stephen Gendang, Andy Kiew, Holden Osin, Kanyan Randi) and 1 deacon (David Tan). For these and many others, we give thanks to God. And yet, we know we still have a long way to go.
Hence, the theme of our Diocesan Synod, “Reaching Forward Intentionally” (Philippians 3:13). To help all of us reach forward, and to grow deeper and stronger in Christ, we have now set up the Diocesan Children Ministry Board, to encourage and support the works of children ministry; the Anglican Prayer Movement and Mobilisation, to help us to become more prayerful people of God. Likewise, the various Diocesan seminars and conferences, including the Gempuru Besai Anglika, Prayer Conference, Bible and Preaching Conference, Children Ministry Conference, Mission Conference, Clergy Schools and so on. The recent Diocesan Synod in September has agreed that we need to encourage Senior Ministry in our parishes and to continue to support and enhance Youth Ministry, Women’s Ministry and Men’s Ministry. In short, the whole church of God!
As we look forward to the next decade 2020-2030, we must be unwaveringly intentional, strategic and focus on the things of God. By God’s grace, we hope to start the construction of the new House of the Epiphany – a 5-storey building complex, in January. Our new Confirmation Syllabus, under the purview of our Education and Literature Board is now ready for use beginning 2020. This material is useful not just for Confirmation Classes but for Discipleship training as well. The year 2020 will begin with Clergy Schools, followed by Youth Ablaze2020 in May and Diocesan Ministry Conference in September. In between and after, there will be several other Diocesan and Regional Conferences and Teaching Seminars, including a Women’s Prayer Conference in collaboration with Prayer United in March.
In closing, let us remember again that the heart of Christmas is the gift of Jesus Christ who saves us. Receive Him as God’s gift. May He be the sole reason of our Christmas celebration! And may 2020 be full of the Lord’s grace and blessings upon you and your family.
With much love and prayers for a blessed Christmas.
Bishop Danald & Julita