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Christmas Message 2013 - Cardinal George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney

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Published on Dec 23, 2013

Christmas Message 2013

Francis of Assisi, the early 13th century Italian saint invented the first crib. The Christmas image we take for granted had not existed before then. Francis knew the importance of symbols, the power of images to capture our hearts and minds; the power of deeds over words. Even the dowdiest crib usually outranks the most eloquent sermon.

The birth of the Son of God in a stable has three different but inter-related meanings. The first reminds us that the Creator of the Universe sent his Son to be one of us, born as a poor child in a stable. Tradition tells us that the shepherds were cold and it has been snowing heavily in Bethlehem in the last week or so. Christmas also reminds us that the Christ Child will return as judge at the end of time and that the Spirit of God is always moving among us.

The Christmas message is addressed to everyone without exception, but peace can only be known by those of goodwill, and many such people of peace and goodness live outside the Christian communities.

However, my first message this year is addressed to all my Christian sisters and brothers. We acknowledge the wide scepticism and occasional hostility of those around us, but because we know Christ, we should have the courage of our convictions, we should not lapse into timid silence and we should not be frightened to appear as different.

Our new Pope Francis has warned us of these dangers, urging us not to lapse into small-minded melancholy, not allow ourselves to be submerged by bitterness and fatigue. None of this demonstrates a Christmas spirit.

Traditionally, we urge shops and homes to display Christian decorations, believers to send Christmas cards with Christian themes, but the daily living of believing Christians, nourished by regular prayer, is the best advertisement for the Christ Child.

The witness of good lives can be hidden and camouflaged by crimes and sins, but those sins cannot eliminate the good works of the Spirit. God can seem to be tricky, but the Spirit is never beaten. The cross remains a symbol of victory, especially in our hectic and confused times. Pope Francis does not want us to be disillusioned pessimists; not sourpusses, much less mummies in a museum.

Our challenge, he claims, is not atheism but how best to respond to the many adults and children thirsting for God. He might be right. Christians cannot answer this challenge if we look like we have just come from a funeral.

The baby at Bethlehem has unleashed a revolution of tenderness and through our service and help for all those in trouble, through our smiles and kindness we should be lights in the darkness, like streams of water in Australia's spiritual deserts.
The Christ Child at Bethlehem changed everything. As Christians we need to believe this, before we can hope to encourage others to join us.

Pax et bonum... Peace and goodness to all. A happy and blessed Christmas to everyone, especially those who are sick or sad.

- Cardinal George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney

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