Christmas Message from Bishop, The Rev. Derick A. Richards, President – Methodist Church, South Caribbean District.
“Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth.”
I have no doubt that this Christmas many of us will sing the well-known Christmas hymn “O Holy Night.” We’ll sing the line, “Long lay the world in sin and error pining.” That line in the hymn accurately describes the state of the world in which Jesus was born, as well as the world in which we live in 2022.
How often have you used the word “pining?” “Pining” describes a state of unbearable longing. This was the struggle of the Old Testament prophets who asked, “How Long O Lord?” Pining involves longing for something yet unrealised.
To “pine away” is to slowly lose your health, to slowly lose your vitality, to slowly ebb away. To “pine away” is to waste away under the weight of all your sin, all your errors in judgment, all your mistakes, your regrets, your disappointments and unfulfilled expectations of life. Lots of people are pining away this Christmas!
This reflects what the Bible tells us about the state of the world. The world is in rebellion against God. It seeks satisfaction in things that do not satisfy. It is a restless world that will not embrace the one cure that can save it.
Globally, we have had to figure out how best to manage a post-pandemic economic recovery. The various strategies employed have been severely impacted by the disruptions in the distribution of goods around the world, triggered by the war between Russia and Ukraine.
This in turn has resulted in the untenable increases in goods and services and has further exposed the fragility of food security. The global community is also confronted with climate change, an existential threat that can destroy the socioeconomic fabric of small island developing states, especially those in the Caribbean.
Regionally, we have been crippled and frustrated by the unavailability of affordable, reliable and adequate air transportation between the islands of the Caribbean, thus retarding the process of regional integration.
Locally, we have to move swiftly to eradicate the growing epidemic of crime and violence. There seems to be a lot of anger inside of us that unleashes itself on the people around us. Too many seem incapable of dealing with anger. It is therefore imperative that we break the cycle of violence in our homes, schools, streets, nation and our world. It is destroying the lives, dignity and hopes of many of our sisters and brothers.
The celebration of violence in much of our media, music and even video games is poisoning our children. As we join forces to tackle the problem of violence, I am making an appeal to those in the business community to consider removing all toy guns from their shelves as a sign of solidarity with those involved in crime prevention and as their commitment to crime fighting.
Our present context is not unlike the world in which Jesus was born. Jesus was born into a battle-torn and bitter world. He was born into a dysfunctional society with many murderers and liars. He was born into a nation whose government, grasping for power, betrayed His generation in the worst way imaginable.
He was born into the arms of unprepared parents, who were struggling to discern the will of God in their lives and marriage. Into all of this darkness, the sovereign God knew that this very minute in human history was the perfect moment for the light of Christ to shine. At the Lord’s bidding, He appeared and the souls of men and women felt its worth.
Thankfully there is a message of hope attached to this dire assessment of the world. That hope is found in the appearance of our Saviour. His light is the cure for our darkness. All the gods of this world will not satisfy or give meaning to life in this messed up world.
Jesus the Christ satisfies thirsty souls that rest in Him and pine for Him. He makes our souls feel their worth because “He is the image of the invisible God” in who’s very image we were made. Only our Creator can give us purpose and fulfill us, and we can find much joy and comfort in the fact that He has come and accomplished this.
We no longer need to lay around in sin and error, pining away. Christ Jesus has appeared! God has come near and visited us! The light of Jesus Christ has dawned on our dark world, a “new and glorious morn” has broken upon us. In Luke 4:21 Jesus announces that its ‘TODAY” (not yonder, but today) that all our aching/ longing/ pining is no more. “Today as you listen, this Scripture is being fulfilled.” Luke 4:18-19… “I’ve come to proclaim good news to the poor, release to the captive, recovery of sight to the blind, freedom to the oppressed, favor to those who’ve felt so unfavored by God.”
As I conclude this message, I think of families who have endured tragic, unexpected losses. I think of others, whose losses perhaps haven’t been as sudden and unexpected, but have been equally heart-breaking. I think of Families who are enduring deep and long seasons of difficulties in relationships. Parents who are greatly concerned for their children and grandchildren. I think of those who have lost their jobs unexpectedly and are facing all of the concern that goes along with that. I think of those who are waiting on test results, perhaps facing a frightening future.
I also think of the angel who appeared to Mary and said: “Hail, favored one, the Lord is with you.” To know that God is “with you” is the greatest blessing, it is the blessing we celebrate at Christmas: that God the Son came to earth, to be “with us,” just as Matthew 1: 23 says:
“Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,’ which translated means, ‘God with us.’”
On behalf of the Methodist Church of Barbados, I extend to you and your loved ones Christmas greetings and best wishes for the New Year. This Christmas let us celebrate with a real purpose, let us give and receive presents, let us eat and drink, let us share time with family and friends but all because God is with us in Jesus Christ.
May He appear in your celebrations and may your soul feel His worth.