This Christmas look for Jesus outside the box, the spiritual leader of the Uniting Church in Victoria and Tasmania says.
In a video message sent to congregations, Uniting Church moderator Rev Sharon Hollis said that early in her ordained ministry she discovered that an Anglican priest had an unexpected take on the traditional nativity scene in a Bethlehem stable.
“He imagined Jesus being born into ordinary lives and ordinary places,” Ms Hollis said.
The scenes depicted Jesus being born in locations as differing as outback Australia, snowbound Europe, war-torn countries or even behind the local neighbourhood bottle shop.
“They remind us of the good news that God is with us in this fragile, vulnerable baby,” Ms Hollis said.
Ms Hollis said that the challenge for Christians is to bring forth that life of Jesus in the most every day and unexpected of places.
As an example of this she pointed to the work of the UnitingCare Christmas Appeal, conducted in partnership with retailer Target, which aims to spread the joy of the birth of Jesus by distributing donated gifts and money to those who are facing an otherwise bleak Christmas.
The Appeal is well over two thirds of the way to raising its goal of $1.5 million in gifts and donations.
In Africa and many other places around the world the hope of Jesus is also being born.
Australian churches are once again combining to take part in the Christmas Bowl appeal and a major project this year is training and equipping Zimbabwean farmers in sustainable agriculture with many facing the hardship of failing crops.
Ms Hollis said it was important to remember that Christmas could be a very hard time for some.
“If you are facing Christmas with a measure of dread and sorrow and grief, the good news is that God is with you, alongside you, journeying with you,” she said.
“So whatever your Christmas holds, know this – that the light of Christ comes in the darkness.”
Ms Hollis said the nativity story is a reminder that however turbulent the world seems, God will find a way to make his presence known.
“If the world and its troubles weigh heavy on your heart, the good news of this season is that God hears our prayers and knows that struggle,” she said.
“If Christmas is a time of joy and celebration, the good news is that God also rejoices with us and is glad when we are glad.”