Reconnect—Bishop Brian Mascord’s Christmas message for 2021
December 21, 2021
My Sisters and Brothers in Christ
Christmas celebrates the first coming of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, into what was at that time a world of dislocation, sometimes filled with political instability and military violence. Joseph and Mary would experience this uncertainty when they had to escape the murderous intent of Herod and travel as migrants to the temporary security of Egypt. Christ came into this uncertain world to help us reconnect in loving friendship to God and to each other as God’s children.
Many people will mark the event of Christmas by reconnecting with those who are important in their lives. For some this will be a time of reunion with loved ones separated for considerable lengths of time. There will be first-time introductions to new family members born behind invisible borders.
And sadly, there will be grieving for those who have died during lockdown. As Christians, this Christmas will have that sense of breaking into each other’s lives again, just as God broke into our lives with the coming of Jesus—and we were never the same again.
As we come together as families and communities at this time of Christmas, we do so with an incredible amount of joy and excitement, but there will be anxiety. Having been apart and separated for so much of the last two years, there has been a real sense of disconnection as we lived through and with this pandemic. It has altered our lives and our way of thinking. More so, it has divided opinions and—tragically—divided people, because we have not, at times, been prepared to tolerate differences. Sometimes we have lived in fear and not in hope.
This Christmas, we have an opportunity to live in the posture of love once again, breaking into people’s lives with a message of hope that is desperately needed. For that is what Christmas is all about. In Jesus, the child born at Bethlehem, God has spoken definitively to all of us and all creation: “You are loved deeply by the God of all love.”
In these days of reconnecting, let us be open to receive all that the God of love wishes to offer us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. We know these as the fruits of the Holy Spirit, ways by which we can respond to God, and one another, for the sake and the hope of the world. It is our responsibility as disciples of the child Jesus to offer His love through these gifts, that in and through our lives we may be bearers of Christ’s love to the world. We see in the Nativity the vulnerability of God. What seems at first glance to be a contradiction, is in fact the means God has chosen to enter our lives through His gift of gentle love.
Throughout the scriptures we will listen to this year, we will hear of the Lord pouring himself out for the sake of others. Let us carry this throughout the coming year as we reconnect with our families, friends, parish communities and parish families. Allowing all these experiences to help us reconnect with our God and Saviour.
My hope and prayer for everyone in our diocese is that we will all know that God has come close to us through Jesus and that we are therefore closely united with each other as members of one family, God’s family.
I wish you all every blessing for Christmas and may the love of God revealed in the child of Bethlehem be with you all.
Yours in Christ
Most Rev Brian G Mascord DD
Bishop of Wollongong Christmas 2021
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Our diocesan logo is theologically rich and very succinct. As a hand, it depicts our mission as a diocese and as individuals within the diocese, of bearing (bringing, carrying) Christ’s love to one another and to the world around us. In this, we are the hand of Jesus Christ, and we are offering ourselves to him so that he might work through us.
We can be the bearers of his love only as a response to his call and in the strength of his grace. We are reminded of this in two ways—through the symbol of the dove (the Holy Spirit) also present in the logo, and by the incorporation of the cross that segments the logo. The presence of the cross is a reminder that bearing the love of Christ will inevitably cost us if we live it authentically. However, in the way that the Cross is the portent of redemption and life—an echo of the tree of life in the book of Genesis—so becoming bearers of the love of Christ will also bring us to life.
The four fingers of the hand also represent the four regions of our diocese. The first is bluerepresenting the beautiful water of the Shoalhaven. The second is a blue and green combination representing the waters and escarpment of the Illawarra. The third is greendepicting the hills and plains of the Macarthur. The fourth is dark green illustrating the forests of the Southern Highlands.