As another year draws to a close and we head into this holy season, we are reminded of the paradox of life—that on one hand it is all we have, and sometimes it is all too short and tragically taken away from us; yet on the other hand, new life is birthed every day and in every way there are new possibilities.
We remember individual stories from the year that brought great sorrow. People killed, taken by war, aggression or other acts of mankind, come to mind, particularly young innocents whose lives have been cut short.
We recall the many thousands affected by natural disasters domestically and abroad, from the New South Wales bushfires to the devastating typhoon in the Philippines. Closer to home we saw the damage and human suffering caused by flooding across Queensland.
For some, this time of year is a reminder of the loss of someone we deeply loved.
Yet, paradoxically and painfully, it is often out of such terrible adversities that new life emerges. At an individual level, we are sometimes forced to take on things that we would never have dreamed of; we are forced to go deeper, to be wiser, and to trust God more. Sometimes unforeseen grace, love and possibilities emerge out of the ashes.
At a community level we heard stories that restored faith and belief in the spirit of humanity. We witnessed tales of elderly survivors of the flooding in Bundaberg, and of scores of people opening their homes, wallets and hearts to strangers who are doing it tough. Individuals and groups of people gathered goods for those in need, provided a shoulder to cry on and simply leant a friendly ear when needed.
In all of the 100-plus communities we serve, we saw similar stories of goodwill on a daily basis, from volunteers giving freely of their time, to staff that don’t just work, but who truly care and make a difference.
At a global level, the passing of Nelson Mandela reminded us of the character attributes we all long for—courage, integrity, forgiveness, grace, humility and much more. His death focused us on what it means to be truly great and hopefully encouraged leaders throughout the world to step up a notch in terms of what real leadership can achieve.
We celebrate this time of year, Christmas, because we remember the birth of Jesus Christ. This new life came in the midst of great personal and political difficulties. Mary was a pregnant, unwed woman forced by circumstances to give birth in a stable for animals.
The king sought to murder all new born boys to eliminate a perceived threat to him. Yet, this new life changed the world.
This Christmas our staff, pastors, volunteers and teams will be working across Queensland and Victoria to achieve our mission of bringing the light of Christ to communities at a time when those on the fringe of society can often feel most disaffected and alone.
I encourage every reader to spare a thought for those that aren’t so lucky, for those that might have slipped between the cracks of life because of loss or circumstances. Seek out your neighbours at home and in your communities; do something that will encourage, uplift and perhaps create new possibilities for someone who might be doing it tough—bring some light into their world.
I wish every reader a joyful Christmas, and may the New Year bring new possibilities of life for you, no matter what your circumstances, just as it did two millennium ago.
Dean Phelan, Chief Executive Officer, Churches of Christ in Queensland