Dear Citizens of Hong Kong,
Merry Christmas to you all.
On Christmas, we commemorate and celebrate the incarnation of Jesus Christ. Jesus came to us in a time when society was filled with conflict, a time when division and violence was rife. He was born within a manger, an unhygienic place for childbirth, and it did not take long until his family needed to flee, lest they be killed. He grew up in a fishing village, a place unworthy of praise. Though his mission is to bring joy and grace to the world, his own life was one of suffering. He was misunderstood, he was falsely accused, and he was persecuted. At the last he died the gruesome and shameful death of crucifixion.
Some might wonder: why are we to celebrate the birth of such a tragic life?
Indeed, when we are painfully aware of the tragedy surrounding us, when we are painfully aware of the regrets, conflicts, and hardships of humanity, wishing each other ‘Merry Christmas’ can seem like a gesture of being disconnected from reality. In truth, the past few Christmases have not been easy ones. Though the world might be going through interesting times, we are reminded that such uncertainty was no stranger to Jesus, and such uncertainty could well let the meaning of ‘Christmas’ shine all the brighter. Since the advent of the 21st century, the world has entered into a new age, and the direction that it shall take, be it for better or for worse, is a decision that we all have a part in shaping. Facing the still ongoing pandemic, and all the economic and political crises that are appearing over the world, there is no escape of us: each and every one must deal with the deep-seated conflicts that are now emerging, threatening humanity. If this is the inevitable and transitory pain that heralds the solution to all such problems, then now is the time when we have to seek the positive within all that has happened thus far.
The message of Christmas is such that, when we discover God has always been with us in all our moments of regret, conflict, and hardship, then the birth of Jesus Christ becomes God’s most intimate moment with us. And so, as we face the our problems in life and reality, we are inspired to understand the importance of participating in the establishment of family, church, and society – for this is the importance of being the yeast to our world.
Christmas is a season of ‘peace’ and ‘joy’. Amidst the burning beacons of conflict, and as we hear the drums of war beating ever louder throughout the world, we are tasked to learn how to bring peace, and to find joy in the regrets of life.
For many years, we have seen disagreement and upheaval emerging both abroad and locally. These go beyond the superficial clashes, for the deepest damage they have done is formless: numerous friendships broken, familial ties tarnished, and old acquaintances turned into enemies, all because of different political leanings towards either global or local matters. This is a tragedy. When we all take our own stance as absolute, we create antagonists out of each other, and we fill our society with confusion. Trust will be no more, and relationships will break. We must therefore seek a way to heal the rifts in our family, our society, and our world, for it is the only path to happiness.
And what does it mean to heal such rifts? When Nelson Mandela was elected as the first black president of South Africa, he intentionally invited two wardens of the Robben Island prison to attend his inauguration. Robben Island was, of course, one of the places where Mandela was imprisoned, and one of the wardens who Mandela invited might even have tortured him. This, my friends, is healing, and this is the greatest achievement of Mandela’s personal and political life.
My dear friends, brothers, and sisters, no matter what your background, culture, race, or political and economic views may be, may we all, in these interesting and regretful times, be able to learn to be kind and true this Christmas. In celebration of Christ’s incarnation, may we bring together those who are apart, that trust may be deepened, and love rekindled.
And so, as we wish each other a ‘Merry Christmas’, may we bless each other with a heart full of joy and peace.