ABM Christmas Message

I’ll Be Home for Christmas…if only in my dreams!

What do Whitney Houston, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Michael Buble all have in common? Each of them has recorded a version of the Christmas song “I’ll be Home for Christmas”.

The second stanza of the song ends with the line “I’ll be home for Christmas if only in my dreams”.  This will be the sad reality for many people in our world this Christmas season, from the homeless people in our major cities to those suffering as the Syrian crisis continues.

The Monthly magazine in its November 2016 edition reported the current situation with homelessness in Australia.  A City of Melbourne survey, taken on the morning of 7 June this year, counted 247 people (195 men, 35 women, 17 unidentified) sleeping rough in the CBD. A similar street count by the City of Sydney, which conducts the survey twice a year, found 394 rough sleepers in August. Of course this is just the most visible sign of the wider homelessness crisis in Australia. It is estimated that 105,000 people including 17,000 children will be homeless this Christmas.  Home for these fellow Australians is just a dream.

In the middle-east since mid-2014, ISIS has been carrying out a terror campaign against Christians, Yazidis, Shias, and other religious minorities in Iraq and Syria. A home safe from the mass murders, torture, systematic rape, and sexual enslavement would be a dream come true.  The necessary current campaign against the ISIS stronghold of Mosul will add more death, destruction and homelessness and shattered dreams.

However some might be home by Christmas. The Federal Government’s recent announcement about the refugee resettlement program with the USA heralds a welcome breakthrough for people still languishing on Nauru and Manus Island. It is not clear when they will be in their new homes in the USA, probably not this Christmas but hopefully next.

At the first Christmas as the Bible narrative records in Luke and Matthew’s accounts, there was no home either for the birth of the much-anticipated son of God. And that birth was soon followed by the family’s refugee flight to Egypt as King Herod unleashed his destruction on boy babies. This record of Jesus’ birth and escape as a refugee reminds us that God is present in difficult situations and has not left us without hope for a better future.  The Christmas exclamation of “Immanuel”, God with us, is just as sustaining in the crisis of our private worlds as it was at Jesus’ birth.

This Christmas as we celebrate this paradoxical event of the birth of a homeless refugee baby boy who was destined to change the course of human history let’s be:

  • thankful to God for the security of the homes that will be the places where we celebrate,
  • generous to homeless people by our welcoming hospitality and gifts, hopeful that the refugee resettlement will provide safe places for those still in offshore detention centres,
  • and above all, responsive to God’s gift of restoration and peace through the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus.

Rev Keith Jobberns
National Ministries Director
Australian Baptist Ministries

Christmas Message 2016