“Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a Saviour has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11)
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
It is Christmas! Let us celebrate the birth of Him, who is Messiah and Lord – Jesus. He is Immanuel – God with us!
“How do we celebrate?”, you might ask. 2020 has been a very challenging year. So much so that this Christmas is rather different from that of yesteryears! Covid-19 has so far infected nearly 80 million people and caused the death of over 1.7 million worldwide. For months on end we have been listening out for the latest figures and updates: what colour is which district? What is the latest SOP? How many new cases today? How many in ICU? How many deaths? We thank God that Sarawak and Negara Brunei Darussalam have been largely spared. We are grateful that our respective governments have been most proactive in putting up and implementing stringent measures, and that almost everyone have been cooperative in complying. As a Church, we certainly have been at the forefront both in adhering to the SOP as well as encouraging members to do the same because we know that every one of those figures stands for lives frustrated, threatened and changed definitively. Many amongst us are dealing with heightened levels of anxiety stemming from loneliness or other hardships made worse by the effects of the various Movement Control Orders.
How can we speak of joy and hope in the midst of so much suffering, isolation, anxiety and fear?
While the manner in which we celebrate and mark this Christmas might be somewhat different, the reason for Christmas remains the same – Jesus! The message remains the same – Hope! At the heart of Christmas is Emmanuel – God with us. God is with us, even more so in the midst of sadness and sorrow. That is the heart of Christmas. No matter what, our God is with us and that is the source of our Joy.
Let us remember always that Jesus came into a world where there was pain, suffering, isolation and rejection. God became one of us, took on our human form, born in a dirty, smelly, lowly manger. Jesus experienced the joyful moments of life but also the suffering that is part of our being human. In the end He gave His life for us on the Cross. In doing so, He gave us all something to believe in and to have hope in. His life reminds us that suffering and even death is not the final word. The Gospel of Christmas is “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us… who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14). The Word which became flesh is Jesus, who is “the light that shines in the darkness…” (John 1:5)
And Jesus continues to walk this journey with us, even now as we come to the close of 2020 and into the new year 2021.
Even though 2020 has been a most unusual year, there have also been so many blessings for which we must thank God. Most especially, we thank and praise God for His faithfulness and goodness in watching over us and graciously sparing us of greater devastations. And I praise God for your faithfulness. Many of you, as a result of the restrictions imposed on in person worship gatherings, have faithfully joined in the online worship time at home, thus making your home truly a church. This is wonderful! I acknowledge all of the great work done by our priests and teams of volunteers to ensure Christ is visible this Christmas and always and that worship services can be held joyfully and safely in this most unusual year. Some of us might be frustrated at not being able to attend Christmas Day service. Please remember that Christmas is more than just one day. Masses on any of the days from Christmas Day to the Epiphany is a fitting celebration of Christmas. And as usual, Services will also be widely available online.
I want to acknowledge your generosity in giving. As challenging as it has been, many of you continue to give faithfully. A good number give beyond their means! Out of your genuine love and concern for the poor and needy, many of you came forward and joined hands to assist them. This is an extension of the love, grace and mercy of God. Thank you for your overflowing love and care. May God bless you for your kindness!
I will be writing later about the next ten years, our DIOCESAN DECADE OF DISCIPLESHIP (2021-2030). This in line with our overall theme of Moving Forward Intentionally. For 2021, we want to focus on ADVANCING DISCIPLESHIP. We believe this is God’s agenda for us – to advance Discipleship as our true identity and as a body of Christ’s Disciples, to Advance Forward and Outward, strong, firmed, sure, equipped and ready in our Lord Jesus Christ and His Gospel. We will meet with many challenges. However, by the grace and mercy of God, we shall overcome, for God, Immanuel is with us!
Julita joins me in wishing you and your family a truly blessed Christmas and a grace-filled New Year 2021.
The Rt Rev Datuk Danald Jute