It’s not the decorations in the shops. It’s not the list of presents to buy or the menu plans on my kitchen bench. The reason I know that Christmas is upon us is that the songs I have stuck in my head are Christmas carols. And this year, on high rotation, is one particular line from the carol “O Holy Night”.
“A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices.”
The idea of a weary world is one many of us can relate to at the end of a year, and perhaps this year especially. We’ve seen and felt the continuing impact of the pandemic, and the escalating crises of conflict and climate change taking their toll, knowing that it is the people living in our world’s poorest communities who suffer these things most severely.
And so in this Christmas season, with all that might make us weary, it’s so necessary that we steep ourselves in the good news of great joy that is for all people. A Saviour born, God with us, and a kingdom of justice and righteousness established from now unto forever. A thrill of hope and a reason to rejoice indeed.
In the opportunities I have to meet with people across our Tearfund community and share stories about doing the work of justice, I am greatly encouraged by the evidence of this kingdom breaking through in our communities. I hope that you too are encouraged by all that God is doing and the ways we have come together through this year in prayer and action.
In March, Tearfund released its landmark climate research report They Shall Inherit the Earth and it has proven to be a powerful tool for growing the conversation about climate justice in our churches. After a federal election that demonstrated such profound support amongst the Australian community for climate action, this research also provided an opportunity to witness to the Christian values of caring for the poor and stewarding creation beyond the church.
In the lead up to the federal election, our Christians Together for Climate local electorate groups did some amazing advocacy work, engaging their church communities and meeting with MPs. Their stories are an inspiring testimony of God’s love in action.
More recently Tearfund hosted the Faith in the Future panel event, which provided practical ideas for how church leaders, chaplains, teachers and parents can provide pastoral support to young people experiencing climate anxiety.
The passing of legislation to commit Australia to more ambitious climate action targets is another reason to give thanks. Climate change is one of the greatest threats to ending poverty that we currently face and this year we have seen its convergence with the war in Ukraine to drive an unprecedented hunger crisis.
Aid and humanitarian organisations have rallied with the Help Fight Famine campaign and in September we welcomed the Government’s announcement of a $15 million emergency assistance package to fight famine in the Horn of Africa and Yemen. Through this campaign we’ve built bipartisan support, as demonstrated through this powerful op-ed by the Shadow Minister for International Development, Michael McCormack.
We know our advocacy - which includes your written emails and letters to MPs - is helping to keep this issue on the agenda and we are continuing to call for the $150 million Famine Prevention Package along with investment in a food security strategy to tackle hunger at the root causes. If you haven’t already, you can add your voice to Help Fight Famine today.
The October Federal Budget announcement included the commitment of an additional $1.4 billion to the aid budget over the next four years, and then at November’s COP27 we saw some small but significant steps in the area of climate finance.
Following this, Tearfund supported a delegation of 12 emerging leaders to attend the Pacific Australian Emerging Leaders Summit in Canberra. The summit, a joint initiative of Micah Australia and the Pacific Conference of Churches, brought together over 90 young leaders from the Pacific and across Australia to meet with politicians and advocate on issues that impact our region.
Delegates participated in two days of advocacy training before heading into meetings with MPs and senators from across the country. Combined, the delegates participated in over 70 meetings with politicians, amplifying the stories of their communities and calling for change. It was an incredibly transformative and powerful time.
There is so much good in taking action together - playing our part in the great restoration story that God is authoring for the whole creation, and sharing in the joy and hope of that story as we do.
I look forward to doing more of this with you in the new year. But for now, feel free to join me in singing:
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn;
Fall on your knees, Oh hear the angel voices!
O night divine! O night when Christ was born.
O night divine, O night, O night divine!