By Bishop Don Sproxton
Auxiliary Bishop of Perth
As this very busy year draws close to its end, I want to extend to the people of the Archdiocese my best wishes at Christmas and for the New Year. I will be praying for your happiness as you celebrate the birth of Jesus, and for peace in your families, our society and the entire world in the Christmas season.
It was a privilege for me to be able to visit the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem this year. In the courtyard of the Church stands the permanent crèche of the Holy Family, and the shepherds and wise men who visited the new born Jesus. I have used this scene on my Christmas card for this year. The figures in the tableau are life size and beautifully dressed. Their faces show a range of emotions: wonder, delight, surprise and respect.
The crèche draws towards itself the pilgrims as they leave the church, having visited the place where Jesus was born. It reinforces visually the wonder of the birth of Jesus, the Son of God and son of Mary.
In our parishes, the building of the crib during Advent is a treasured custom. Some parishes design and construct very elaborate presentations. I have seen some amazing depictions of Bethlehem, which have involved the building of the entire town in miniature form, with a stream running through the middle, and people occupied at their daily tasks. The children are fascinated by the involved and interesting detail.
These help me to think about the circumstances and concerns of life at the time when Jesus was born. Having visited Bethlehem myself, it means that I have a new set of thoughts about the circumstances and concerns of the people of that city today.
Life is very difficult in that place. The Christian Palestinians are harassed and intimidated, along with their Muslim brothers and sisters. Increasing, irritating regulations are implemented to pressure and unsettle the people. Many have given up and seek permission to migrate to other countries where they may live in peace and freedom.
This Christmas, and I am sure on every Christmas Day from now on, I will recall the people I met in Bethlehem. I will remember their great faith and courage. I will pray that their trust and hope in Jesus will be strengthened.
They are most proud of the fact that God chose their city to send his Son. They celebrate the way that the message of Christ has gone out from their city to so many cities, towns and villages throughout the world. They feel a link with us across the world and they pray that we will cherish our common Christian faith.
So I pray that each of us will look again to Jesus with eyes of wonder, delight, surprise and respect, as we celebrate his coming among us in history and today. Let our faith in Christ be renewed in difficult times. May our hearts be turned more and more towards him, so that individually and as a Church we will be converted to stand for justice and the building up of our society.
A happy and blessed Christmas to all.