My dear People of God
A blessed and joyful Christmas to you all! I am writing this letter in Advent, mindful that most of you will read it now, some of you around Christmas and some, perhaps, after Epiphany. My message will attempt to straddle these seasons in our church’s calendar.
Advent and Christmas, and Epiphany to some extent, are opportune times to look back, and also to look forward – to Christ’s first coming, as a precious and vulnerable baby, and to his coming again, as saviour and liberator, when God’s glory shall be manifested and all his purposes fulfilled.
Of course, there is the “here and now”, coupled with looking back and looking forward in order to complete the “gestalt”. How are we then to respond to Emmanuel – God with us (now), to God’s gift of himself in our earthly pilgrimage?
The celebration of Christmas offers part of an answer to his holy longing – for Christmas is not about wasteful consumerism. It is an echoing of God’s declaration that he loves us so much, our fallibility, warts and all, that he willingly sacrifices himself for us; he forgives our failings, heals our despairing souls, comforts us in our grief, and ushers fresh hope, Jesus Christ, the hope of Glory (Col 1:27).
Christmas then is God’s billboard that declares that we are never alone – God in Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit knows what it is to be human, to laugh, to dream, to hurt, to be disappointed, to be betrayed, to be tended to, to be scolded by parents and even to face murder. God the Word becomes flesh and dwells among us and helps us grow in faith, love and peace. Past every milestone until we find rest in our heavenly home, he carries us in the palm of his hand.
As we ponder on the mystery of this vulnerable Christ-child, the incarnate Son of God, let our hearts be touched and transformed by the love of children, and also by the plight of those who suffer: women in abusive relationships, those who suffer as a result of xenophobia and those who are refugees because of war. Let our love and our deep yearning for peace, especially for those in Syria and South Sudan, lead us to commit to action to do all that we can to bring an end to militarisation.
I want to thank God for the outpouring of love and condolences from across our Anglican Communion after the death of Nelson Mandela. I was humbled to receive messages of love and support from the Archbishop of Canterbury, individual parishioners, many bishops and primates from around the Anglican Communion. Your love, prayers and messages of support showed how caring we as Anglicans are and that when one is ailing, we all feel the pain together. Thank you on behalf of ACSA and the Mandela family. (See on my blog the prayers that I shared with the nation and at the Valedictory Service that I led with his family in Mr Mandela’s home just before the public funeral service.)
Looking forward, I commend the Lenten Bible Studies produced by Prof Gerald West, which will be posted both on our Province’s website and on my blog. It is my hope that every diocese and parish will use these Bible studies in 2014, allowing God to speak to us afresh as a Province through these scriptures.
Congratulations to Prof Barney Pityana and the staff and Council of the College of the Transfiguration (Cott) for successfully registering Cott as a Private Higher Education Institution in terms of South Africa’s Higher Education Act of 1997, and for the accreditation of its Diploma in Theology. This is the greatest good news of my archiepiscopacy so far, for which I give thanks to God.
As we ponder this Christmas on the awesome and precious gift of God himself, may the love of God overflow in you and in all those you love; may this love transform all that is unloving in us, in our community and the world over – even as we bring God’s peace to reign in all.
May you have a blessed Christmas as you also find your deepest wants and needs are met in Jesus Christ, whose birth we celebrate.
Yours in the service of Christ,
+Thabo Cape Town