In his Christmas Message, the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, Rt Rev Dr William Henry, encourages us to remember what the angels announced to the shepherds that first Christmas night was ‘good news of great joy for ALL people’ (Luke 2:10).
Full text of the Presbyterian Moderator’s 2019 Christmas Message:
The Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland’s 2019 Christmas Message – ‘Christmas is for everyone’
Throughout this year I’ve been encouraging folks to ‘Enjoy God’, and to help others in practical ways to enjoy Him. I strongly believe that this enjoyment of God is for everyone.
For many people, I know that Christmas may not be a great time as they try to find joy amidst all the tinsel and the hype of the season. We often fall for the idea that Christmas is for the ‘happy people’, like the ones we see in the TV ads, the ones who seem to have the perfect background, the nice home and the wonderful family.
You know, the family who all sit nicely watching a Christmas Day movie on TV together – without arguing about the film they’d rather be watching on a different channel – or smiling round a table full of festive food. I’m sure we have all fallen for this notion that this is what it must be like.
The Bible suggests that we all need what is at the heart of the Christmas story. What the angels announced to the shepherds, that first Christmas night, was ‘good news of great joy for ALL people’ (Luke 2:10). The news of the coming of the Saviour was for everyone, not just a few, but everyone who, regardless of their circumstances, recognises that they need a deliverer. News, for once, to enjoy! News that speaks powerfully of hope in a world where pessimism and cynicism abound. In spite of my own failings and how I may feel, I can find acceptance and joy in God.
In my travels around Ireland I have been struck by the energetic faith of so many believers. I’ve seen youth leaders passionate about their young people and wanting to assure them of Jesus’ love, even as they themselves feel that they don’t quite measure up. I’ve seen the enthusiasm of our young people as they understand clearly how the Bible should impact their daily lives and how we should live sustainably in our world. I’ve seen prison visitors, and others who welcome, care for and support those who are new to our land and those who are homeless.
Last week several of our congregations hosted ‘Christmas Cracker’ events, and I was pleased to be able to take part in one of them. These events are respite days for families of young people and adults who have a learning disability. It was a fun-filled time with craft activities, food and games, all set in the middle of a church family who are practically showing love and care.
Here I saw the church demonstrating the love and compassion of Jesus, taking time to listen, to help and support, getting alongside others and actually doing something that enabled someone else to enjoy God. The true joy of Christmas is about giving, giving of ourselves, and enabling others to embrace what is good and at the heart of this time of year, even when they might find it hard.
At this special time, I wish you a very happy Christmas, and in the words of the Apostle Paul, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).
Rt Rev Dr William Henry
Moderator – Presbyterian Church in Ireland