One of the things we hope to do on this blog is share the experience and perspective of Global Ministries partner church in Timor Leste, the Protestant Church in Timor Leste (IPTL). IPTL has more than 50 congregations scattered throughout the mountains of Timor Leste. Most of them are small, rural congregations. Below is a translation of the Synod’s Christmas message which was shared with many of the congregations.
I was especially struck by the reflection about the simple yet dangerous circumstances in which Jesus was born. Although we’re all familiar with the story of Jesus being born in a stable, how many middle class urban people can actually relate to that? Not many. For most Timorese though, birth does in fact take place in rural areas with no hospital and very few medical resources. This is not good. East Timor has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world. It is however good that we make a connection between the birth of Jesus and contemporary realities like maternal mortality in East Timor. The Christmas story of “God with us” is very meaningful to Timorese because as the Synod message says: “…through his birth in this world, Jesus shows his solidarity with those who suffer.”
Synod IPTL Christmas Message 2016
“…Peace Be With You” John 20:19
Dear members of IPTL scattered throughout all of Timor Leste:
God’s blessing is always with us. We are grateful to God that Jesus Christ continues to strengthen and accompany IPTL so that we can serve him. As a church we face many difficulties but we are grateful that through God’s help our General Assembly last July was a success. The Synod Council of IPTL is grateful to all organized and supported the General Assembly: members, delegates and observers alike. We ask for your prayers throughout the period 2016-2020.
Christmas is a day of joy that brings peace to us all; families, friends, neighbors, church and nation. Jesus Christ is the source of this joy; he came to this world so that those who believe and trust in him would be saved. The Son of God came to this world as a creature like us except that he had no sin. He came from a simple family in a simple setting. He came to bring peace to the world so that the world could live in peace. Because of the sin of the world he suffered unto death on the cross so that through him the world would be reconciled to God. Because Jesus brought peace to the world, we must also show forth peace toward our neighbors, hence this year’s theme: “Peace be with you.”
Although we face many difficulties in our lives this does not mean peace is not with us. Peace is with us so that we can face these difficulties. As we all know, we face many obstacles as a church, both internal and external. But the beauty is that these things help us learn and strengthen our commitment to serve Jesus Christ, the head of the church. We face financial difficulties that make it hard to do the work that has been entrusted to us. Nevertheless, we have an initiative underway from our own church members to support clergy in their pastoral work among our members.
IPTL has a strong commitment to be “salt and light” for the world even though we face a lot of difficulties. And we also have a commitment to live in peace and unity. This means that we all have to support each other!
Friends, although we cannot be present with you, the peace of Christ is with you. Because of this we can celebrate Christmas with simplicity and peace. At Christmas, Jesus Christ gives us hope that we can be at peace with ourselves, others, throughout the church and community. Because our situation is so difficult, unity at this time is very important. It’s also important that we be loyal and committed in our work so that we can find solutions to our problems that work.
Celebrating Christmas always brings us together so that we can give thanks and remember that God’s peace is with us. Why did Jesus come to people that were so simple? Because of his solidarity with our suffering. Bethlehem wasn’t a famous place. And a barn isn’t a safe, healthy or secure place for a baby to be born. Yet through his birth in this world, Jesus shows his solidarity with those who suffer. Mary and Joseph were ordinary people from simple families. The shepherds were people with little influence or power in society (Lk. 2:11-14). Jesus lived a simple life among simple people, yet he is the savior of the world. Indeed he is a different kind of king!
Along with the rest of the world, in 2016 people in Timor Leste have access to modern technology and information through the internet, Facebook, television, media, newspapers, etc. Technology can help us and we can learn a lot by using it. But it can also be harmful. We also need to be aware of the threat of HIV / AIDS and the negative impact of drugs. We’ve also seen that conflict among young people is increasing due to a lack of work and education. These things continue to be a threat to the stability and development of Timor Leste. Because of that, as the Synod Council of IPTL, we appeal to all members to think about these things and strengthen our commitment to the independence of our beloved land. Let us continue to live in peace as citizens that take seriously our responsibility to create stability in our beloved country especially as we head into an election year in 2017. Let us hope that we don’t have any conflict that would threaten unity among us.
Finally, let us all stand firmly in the faith of our king of peace. He is the savior of the world. Let us continue to show forth our faith by our commitment to the motto of IPTL: “…let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”
The Peace of Christ be with you all.
Synod Council of IPTL