Unexpected joy during an unprecedented Christmas

LWF President Archbishop Dr Panti Filibus Musa. Photo: LWF/Albin Hillert
LWF President Archbishop Dr Panti Filibus Musa. Photo: LWF/Albin Hillert

LWF President Musa shared LWF’s 2020 Christmas Message

(LWI) – In a Christmas season marked by uncertainty and fear from the unfamiliar and unprecedented challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, Christians are invited to trust in the promise of “God’s coming into the world to bring light and life and hope amid all the difficulties we continue to encounter.”

The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) President Archbishop Dr Panti Filibus Musa offers this message of hope and encouragement in his 2020 Christmas message to all LWF member churches. Likening the fears experienced by Mary and Joseph to today’s anxiety, Musa shares his conviction that “the birth of this child, laid in a manger and welcomed by humble shepherds, will bring new hope and new light to a dark world.”

The president says the Lutheran communion has watched with fear and anxiety as the coronavirus disease spread across the world “most painfully, claiming hundreds of thousands of lives.”

In the message he refers to the many encouraging ways in which LWF churches continue to provide solidarity and support to those worst affected by the pandemic lockdowns, including those who were isolated, without income sources and in dire need. “We have been inspired by the stories of innovative ways in which churches have nurtured connections between people, to worship, serve, and witness to the gospel,” he adds.

Still, this year’s season will be unfamiliar with many people unable to be with their loved ones, and finding new ways of worshipping and singing the traditional Christmas carols without in-person church attendance.

May the light shine in the darkness of our lives and the lives of all people, as it did for the shepherds. And may the birth of the baby in Bethlehem, bring unexpected joy to you all.
LWF President Archbishop Dr Panti Filibus Musa

“May the light shine in the darkness of our lives and the lives of all people, as it did for the shepherds, surprised by the angels on that first Christmas night. And may the birth of the baby in Bethlehem, bring unexpected joy to you all and your families,” Musa concludes.

The full text of the Christmas Message follows.


Unprecedented Christmas – Unexpected Joy

"And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn." Luke 2:7

Dear friends, sisters and brothers in Christ,

Once again, we gather to celebrate the birth of Jesus and to listen to the familiar verses telling of his birth in a stable in Bethlehem.

Yet as we prepare for Christmas this year, we are painfully aware of how unfamiliar this season will look for many of us, unable to gather with those we love, unable to worship in our churches or sing our traditional Christmas carols together face to face.

Since the start of 2020, all of us have been coping with the unfamiliar, un-precedented challenges brought by the Coronavirus pandemic. We have watched with fear and anxiety as the disease spread from one country to another, one continent to another, and most painfully, claiming hundreds of thousands of lives.

We have had to adapt to the many dramatic changes imposed by quarantine restrictions, as governments and communities struggled to protect their people and to stop the spread of the virus.

Yet, we have often been encouraged by the many stories of solidarity and support offered by our churches to those worst affected by the lockdowns, those who’ve lost their source of income or who’ve found themselves isolated, lonely and in dire need at this time. We have been inspired by the stories of innovative ways in which churches have nurtured connections between people, to worship, serve, and witness to the gospel.

But for many of us, preparing to welcome Jesus into our homes and our hearts, this traditional season of joy and celebration may continue to be one of uncertainty and fear for the future.

As we read the familiar bible verses, though, we can imagine that Mary and Joseph must have had similar fears for themselves and the future of their child. Giving birth in a stable, far from their loved ones, surrounded by animals and a straw-filled manger for a crib was surely not what they had imagined for the birth of their child? As the gospel narratives unfold, we know that they, too, continued to experience fear and uncertainty as they fled into exile in Egypt.

And yet, we know that the birth of this child, laid in a manger and welcomed by humble shepherds, will bring new hope and new light to a dark world. Despite the unexpected, unplanned, messy circumstances of his birth, we know that this baby boy is the Messiah, the Son of God and Prince of Peace, who gives new life to all who believe in him.

Therefore, we too can trust in that promise, just as Mary and Joseph did. We can listen again to the story of God’s coming into the world to bring light and life and hope amid all the difficulties we continue to encounter.

May you find new hope as you hear the familiar words of the gospel again and as you find new ways of worshipping and celebrating this year’s Christmas, online or in person, as the circumstances allow.

May the light shine in the darkness of our lives and the lives of all people, as it did for the shepherds, surprised by the angels on that first Christmas night. And may the birth of the baby in Bethlehem, the newness of heaven, bring unexpected joy to you all and your families this Christmas season.

I wish you a happy and blessed Christmas!

Archbishop Panti Filibus Musa

President of the Lutheran World Federation


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