In the name of Jesus Christ, whose birthday we celebrate at Christmas, I offer greetings and best wishes to everyone.  The Council for World Mission (CWM) rejoices in the God of healing grace by whose character we have been sustained throughout the year and whose nature of love and justice gave expression to our missional engagement.  In June of this year we celebrated the 40th anniversary of CWM, giving thanks to God for the journey over which we have come and submitting ourselves to the path that God will lead us into the future.  “Healing the Broken Body: Hope for Renewal” has been our guiding theme; and despite our human frailties and shortcomings we continue to hope that God’s healing presence will bring creation together in an orchestra where the richness of diversity provides melody to the soul and inspiration for life in community.

 This season in the Christian liturgical calendar is punctuated with promise and hope, filled with reason to celebrate life and buoyant with possibility for family reunion and fellowship, far less possible throughout the busy routine of everyday life.  It is not just a season to be jolly; rather it is a season to affirm the life-transforming activity of God, the Incarnate One, who entered human story and engaged with our struggle.  In that sense, Christmas in not an event but a statement about God at work to give promise and hope, reason to celebrate and basis for fellowship.

The circumstances around us may tell a different story.  Certainly, the inability of the United Nations to advance the peace agenda in the prolonged Israeli-Palestinian conflict/crisis, on account of veto powers of the United States and the arbitrary decision of its president to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, does not speak of promise and hope.  The millions of children who go hungry on a daily basis and are being starved to death, despite the abundance of food, does not speak of life, let alone reason to celebrate.  And the mounting discord caused by political strongholds, military might and self-serving agendas, throughout the world, bear little sign of fellowship.

To speak of Christmas in such a contentious and contested space is hardly possible without our confronting the realities of life as we have come to experience it.  And yet, we must choose to look beyond the circumstances of human story and learn to draw inspiration from our faith and conviction that the “good news”, proclaimed by the angels to the Shepherds over 2000 years ago, is still potent with meaning for our times and circumstances.

“Do not be afraid.  I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you…” (Luke 2: 10-11, NIV).

Even when there are glaring reasons to warrant fear, the call is to rise above it.  “Do not be afraid” because all does not end with the circumstances of the present.  This is the good news, that is the cause for great joy – God steps into human history and offers a different way of reading the story. Indeed, the mighty shall fall and the weapons of war perish.

I salute you in the spirit of Christmas.  The faith by which we live offers us space to look at the circumstances of life through hopeful eyes; and in saluting you in the spirit of Christmas, I invite you to claim God’s gift of faith as the lens through which to critique the world and claim your space.  CWM’s focus on “Healing the Broken Body: Hope for Renewal”, is a prayer and a hope that things can and will be different because the God of hope meets us in our struggle against mamon and walks with us in our search for meaning.

So, I encourage us to enter the spirit of the season, not with frivolity but with fervency and faith in God, trusting God to meet us with shalom, the gift of peace – security and wellbeing for all creation.  And may the God incarnate bring fresh meaning to our lives and renewed hope for the journey into 2018.

With every good wish for Christmas and the year ahead,

Collin I. Cowan

General Secretary