Christmas Message 2017
Sydney, 24 December 2017
CHRISTMAS 2017 Message of His Excellency Bishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay to the People of the Maronite Church in Australia GOD SPEAKS TO US BY HIS SON
Christ is born… Alleluia!
Beloved Brothers and Sisters, Sons and Daughters of our Maronite Eparchy,
1. The greatness of the divine mystery of the Incarnation that we celebrate at Christmas flows from God’s love reflected in his plan of salvation. After the disobedience of Adam and Eve, God did not leave man, created in His image and likeness, to remain subject to evil and sin, but he promised him a Saviour. Since the beginning of times, God has tried to draw closer to us and speak with us in various different ways. On multiple occasions, He called to our fathers through prophets and messengers. In the fullness of time (Gal 4:4), God spoke to us by his Son Jesus, who became man, and dwelt among us and was like us in all things except sin. The most beautiful thing at Christmas is that God no longer communicates with us through indirect means, but meets us face to face, enters into a direct dialogue with us, and speaks to us in a language we understand about the kingdom of heaven, revealing to us that we are called to become his adopted children.
2. Our annual celebration of Christmas is an occasion to listen to the words of God whispering in our hearts, telling us that “Emmanuel” is a renewed and clear reality, because our God is with us today, every day and forever. He is closer to us than we are to ourselves. We can always meet him and receive him as the shepherds and the Magi did, to transform our lives from anxiety and sorrow to true peace and constant joy.
3. When we contemplate the Nativity scene, let us see that God humbled himself and became a little child in a poor manger. Then we can understand that the secret of love between God and man passes through both the manger of Bethlehem and the burial tomb of Jerusalem. Therefore, at this joyous time, it is important that we are not preoccupied with only external and secondary matters, such as gifts and decorations, and that we do not allow Christmas to become just a holiday for leisure and enjoyment. Rather, we should not forget that Christmas is first and foremost a spiritual celebration, during which we are called to a renewal of our faith and love to God by practicing the sacrament of reconciliation and confession, and by dedicating time for personal prayer and the holy Mass. In this way, the joy of this feast may reach the depth of our hearts and our lives and not remain superficial and external.
4. Christmas is a feast and a season for the whole family, from which stems our Christian understanding of the sanctity of marriage. However, the moral and faith challenges we have recently faced, in our Australian society, and the misleading campaigns and new legislation have unfortunately enshrined the division of society about the concept of marriage. It is regrettable that traditional human concepts are attacked and basic freedoms are restricted. The bigger concern is that this is done in the name of new freedoms that carry strange opinions and concepts. We certainly cannot establish solid foundations on these proposals for our nation and society. These changes do not guarantee the future of either the family or the person. This is the reason why many people are concerned for the future of their children and families and for their moral values. On this holy feast, we place before the child in the manger, his mother Mary and Saint Joseph, our concerns and challenges, and we raise our prayer, with all people of good will, for unity within our diverse society. We ask the divine Child to enlighten the minds of our political leaders so they realise the need to review the laws on marriage and amend them to restore and secure religious and public freedoms, for cohesion and harmony between all Australians.
5. On this feast, we also pray to the Virgin Mary, asking her to be the companion of our journey and the patron of our first Maronite Synod, under the theme: Strong in Faith, Growing in Love. The preparatory session held on the 25th of November 2017 was a good start in preparation for the main session from the 12th to the 14th of April 2018. With all of you, dearly beloved, I ask the Virgin Mary to lead us to her son Jesus and ask Him to bless our Eparchy and the work of our Synod. We are hopeful that this Synod will bear the good fruits of a true spiritual, pastoral and apostolic renewal for all the children of the Maronite Church in Australia.
6. Finally, we ask our heavenly Father for a joyous and successful celebration of the feast of St. Maroun on the 9th of February 2018, when we will welcome to our Eparchy, for the first time, the relics of our father St. Maroun. May this be an occasion for us to meet with each other and to live in true Maronite spirituality, which stems from the mystery of the incarnation and redemption. As Maronites, may holiness be our true source of pride and the most precious and beautiful gift that we give to our community and the world at Christmas.
“Christ is born… Alleluia!”
– Maronite Bishop of Australia