Christmas Message 2015-from Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul, Episcopal Church of South Sudan and Sudan

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[Juba, South Sudan, TCT]The Christmas message of the year 2015 from His Grace: The Most Rev. Canon Dr. Daniel Deng Bul Yak, the Archbishop, Primate and Metropolitan of the Province of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan and Sudan, and the Bishop of Juba Diocese Under a THEME: NEW LIFE HAS COME. Addressing the nation on 25th December, 2015 His Grace following these Readings: Psalms 96; Isaiah 9: 2-7; Titus 2: 11-14; Luke 2:1-14. The message of this year from Archbishop dominated by Peace, forgiveness and reconciliation, the His Grace challenged Christians to repent. He challenged political class in the nation to accept one another and silent the guns immediately. In his holistic message, he said greetings to you all brothers and sister in Christ. I thank God that despite what we have experienced in the last past 12 months; we have made it through to this great day of the year where we celebrate the birth of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ. I am fully aware that in our midst, in this congregation and elsewhere in the country, we have lost many of our beloved members. Please, let’s remember them in our prayers. Jesus is the Light John the Baptist preached that, ‘There will come the one greater than me whom I cannot unloose the shoes of his feet’. He paved the way for the coming of Messiah. He calls the people to repent because moral corruption had made deep inroads into Judaism. For us, Christ’s coming is a reminder of our own weaknesses. He came as the light that shines out in the darkness, exposing our sins and providing us with an opportunity to be cleansed from all unrighteousness. So, Christmas is not only the time of celebration but also a time to reflect on our moral corruption and repent. Through baptism we are purified so that righteousness and peace can meet each other. The coming of Christ is to heal the sick, feed the hungry and release the captive from the spiritual prison. Jesus birth is about change, leaving our comfort zones, and following Christ. Jesus is the chief Justice In the world today, there are so much injustices practice by individuals, states, and nations; some are imposed on us by popular cultures. Millions of people around the world live in poverty. Almost 1 in 10 of children dies from huger starvation. There is gender inequality, the elderly are often ignored, and widows and orphans are not care for. There are racism, tribalism and ethnic cleansing, physical abuse of men, women, boys and girls, sexual trafficking and rape, and war destruction and grief. But remember, we are not alone. Jesus the chief Justice of the whole world is with us. His birth comes to bring freedom to those who are oppressed, neglected and abused. His mission is to reach to those who are broken hearted, the mentally, physically and spiritually ill. He came to set us free from slavery of sin, sickness and economic bondage. The birth of Christ offers us salvation. Therefore, let us dedicate our life to him and be the bearers of His justice, freedom and equity. Let us work for the change and the transformation of our communities, tribes, ethnic groups and the nation. Christ our chief Justice and mediator will heal the wounds of our souls. As the Church, let us be a bridge between one community and the other. Because Christ and His Church are the hope for the nations and the world, let us tell the truth and offer justice and equity to our confused communities and societies. Jesus: the Foundation of Forgiveness, Reconciliation and Healing The birth of Jesus reminds us about God’s forgiveness of our sins against Him, which is unconditional and absolute. God does not reject us, object us or bear anger or resentment against us. Instead, he decided to reconcile us to Himself through Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection. Jesus Himself calls us to forgive one another (Mt.18:18). Thus, as Christians we must forgive and be forgiven. In Isaiah 6: 6-7, he complained about his sinful lips. God decided to touch his lips with a live burning coal and he was forgiven. This means that Isaiah was let loose from the condemnation for a sin. God on His own grace restored him. By asking God for forgiveness, we open ourselves to His love and acceptance, grace and compassion. But we must be cleansed first through repentance (Mt 5:23-24). Taking a responsibility of what we have done wrong (Lk.15:18-19) and allow God to purify us. It may be painful but it is better because we become healthier and holy again. We become children of God born into the new family. I am fully aware that forgiveness and reconciliation are hard, but it is definitely sweeter and beautiful to reconcile to someone who had deeply hurt us. Because the longer we nurture the anger and alienation, the more deeply the resentment takes hold in our hearts and the more the anger feeds our soul like a cancer that destroys. We have a God of healing (Ps.41:3). He is able to comfort us in our pain and restore the wounds caused to us by others. It is better to live in peace with one another than in conflict and pain and sorrow. Christ is the foundation of forgiveness, reconciliation and healing. Let us not return evil for evil. Let us be ambassadors of peace, reconciliation and healing this Christmas and always. Jesus the Prince of Peace The birth of Jesus does not only remind us about forgiveness, reconciliation and healing but also peace. At this time of the year we reflect on peace, harmony and tranquility. We often hope that there should have been the absence of hostility, the absence of mental stress or anxiety. But that is not the case in South Sudan and the Sudan. We live in fear and despair. We struggle to find peace. Indeed, we really need peace. In Isaiah 9:6 Jesus is proclaimed “The Prince of Peace”. Peace is a quality and virtue that is sorely needed in the world and the church today. It is needed in our two countries: the Republic of South Sudan and the Republic of Sudan. In Isaiah 9:2-5, the prophet saw in a vision the darkness and gloom of the nation, and saw also the Prince (the Son of the King of peace) that would be born to remove the darkness and enlighten the world. The Prince would be a peaceful ruler. The nature of his administration and government would be to restore and perpetuate peace. The tendency of his reign would be to put an end to wars, and restore harmony and order to the nations. Jesus is the Prince of Peace. He came to bring peace to men and women of good will. The peace that he offers is firstly with God (Rom. 5:1). Without peace with God, no real peace is possible. We quarrel, we fight and we kill because we are empty of God (James 4:1-8). Secondly, Jesus makes peace between mankind. He breaks down the barriers that divide us geographically, regionally, racially, tribally and ethnically; no Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female all are one in Christ (Gal. 3:28). Christ welcome every tribe and nation because God has purchased us all with His blood. Thirdly, Jesus offers peace within oneself. He provides peace that surpasses all understanding to each person (Phil.4: 6-7). Indeed, a person who lives in peace within himself or herself will always safeguard the peace with their neighbor. Fourthly, Jesus provides peace for families seeking love and stability. St. Paul in his letter to Colossians 3:18-21, states that a Christian household that often follow the teaching of Christ will live in peace and harmony. Fifthly, Jesus provides peace between brethren. St. Peters calls us to be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted and humble in spirit of Christ to one another. Sixthly, Jesus offers peace among all churches and denominations. He prayed for the removal of the ill of denominationalism. In John 17:20-23, he prays for unity of those who believe in him. St. Paul also says ‘For God is not a God of disorder but of peace – as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people’ (1Cor.14: 33). Our unity in diversity is paramount to our peace and stability. And Finally, Jesus shows us how to make peace with our enemies. In Matthew 5:44, Jesus says ‘I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you’. In Luke 23:34 Jesus prays to the Father to forgive the people who killed him. The challenge to make peace is at our doorsteps. A Call to Embrace Peace God created and placed us here in South Sudan to live together in peace and harmony. And to share life and resources together as a united people, to love, care, support one another, and be honest and sympathetic to one another. As South Sudanese and Sudanese let’s embraces the culture of peace. Let this Christmas and beyond be the beginning to make peace with God, with our neighbor, with oneself, with fellow brethren, with churches and with our enemies. A Call for Forgiveness, Healing and Reconciliation For many years we have been prisoners of our own ethnic violence and wars. We have been hurt and are bitter. We need to forgive one another because God Himself has forgiven us through Christ. We need to swallow our bitterness, pride and hopelessness for the sake of the survival of our young nation. Let pride of tribe or clan or class or creed of political party and personal ambition not obscures our focus on the future for this nation. I am appealing that let us embraced peace in our hearts. Let us forsake hatred, prejudice, tribalism, corruption and revenge. These are the things that hinder progress, development and prosperity in our land. It is time to recognize that we have wounded ourselves; we have inherited the culture of violence, corruption, and nepotism. It is a high time for us to come up with solution to our problems in order to achieve peace, healing, forgiveness and reconciliation. The Bible says ‘if my people who are call by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and I will forgive their sins and restore their land’ (2 Chronicles 7:14). Let us say sorry to one another, accept one another, and humble ourselves by admitting that we have sinned. Pray to God asking for forgiveness. Seeking God continually. And turn from sinful behavior. We need to liberate this country spiritually from the moral decay. We need to learn how to reconcile our differences. A Call for Justice For the new country to be a better nation, the citizens must be God’s fearing people. The people must be law abiding, people who practice justice and equity. Let the Scriptures inform our conscious and decision-making and governance. The blessing comes from obeying the law of God and the law of the land. We must speak the truth and be honest and sincere in our daily business and dealings. Let us support the poor, the elderly, widows and orphans in our two countries. The prophet Isaiah said, ‘The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me because the Lord has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor, He has sent me to heal the broken hearted and to proclaim liberty to the captives and to open the prison for those who are bound to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord and the day of vengeance of all’ (Isa.61:1- 11). A Call to live in the Light of Christ We have robbed our country of the truth and dignity. But I believe that in Christ we are restored (John 10:10). If we live in the darkness of this world, we lose God’s moral standard for our society, we lose the courage to resist evil. Then the evil makes us practice injustice which creates anger and hatred. All these make us fail to build up the church of God and the nation. But if we live and walk in the light of Christ, as he is the light, our fellowship with one another increases. Then the blood of Jesus (his sacrificial death) cleanses us day by day from our frequent sins of frailty (1 John 1:7). This cleansing is not the same as forgiveness of sins. But it is the opportunity provided to us to do the right thing before God and the people we serve. Therefore let us be the people of the light, do things at the light and walk in the light of Christ to bring change into our nations. We are called to the light of responsibility, accountability and obedience. Conclusion My fellow citizens, let this Christmas be to us a moment of the truth. Let it be the time for us to reflect on these issues affecting us personally and corporately. The birth of Jesus Christ is fulfillment of God plan of rescue for the whole humanity. Let us repent of all that we have done wrong which led to the destruction of our country. Let us seek peace with God and one another. It is better to be peace builders and makers than being destroyers of God given peace and tranquility and harmony. God will heal our land and us. The birth of Christ destroyed the barrier the people built for themselves and he offers the salvation to all of us. There are many barriers dividing us in South Sudan and the Sudan. We are hostile against each other. Time has come to rediscover love of God the source of our healing. Time has come to transfer our guilt to Christ. Time has come to plant trust in the heart of our people. As we celebrate the birth of Christ, let us celebrate one another, as one family of God. We have equal values. Let us appreciate and respect one another. Let us return back to God and celebrate his presence with us. Let us celebrate our diversity by honoring one another. Our diversity is a God given thing; we did not make ourselves to be who we are in our various ethnic groups. My dear citizens lets be ready to welcome peace and unification of the SPLM party, let us stop hate speech at this time of Christmas, I am appealing to the government enough is enough no more war, now or later. I am appealing to the people of South Sudan let us look ahead for the future of our children and not to be controlled by the past. I am appealing to UN, AU and IGAD to help us to discover our own mistake but not to divide us. Happy Christmas, the light has come, new life has come, salvation has come and Happy New Year.
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