Annual Christmas messages are a holiday tradition formany religious leaders. Here's a sampling of what the leaders of somemajor denominations have to share with their fellow Christians thisyear. It includes Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey; WorldCouncil of Churches General Secretary Konrad Raiser; the Rev. H. GeorgeAnderson, presiding bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America;Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold; and BishopChristian Krause, president of the Lutheran World Federation.
Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey
"When they saw the star, they were overjoyed" (Matthew 2:10) The joy of the Wise Men is understandable. The Gift of Christ toour world is beyond our comprehension. Christmas is always a joyfultimefor Christians, a time to reflect, with thankfulness to God, upon thefull richness of his gift to the world of the Word made Flesh. Howprofoundly blessed we have been over the past two thousand years by thefaith and the hope we have been given in Jesus Christ, that in him theworld in all its pain and suffering, as well as in its goodness andglory, might be saved.
But this year is special. Across the world, Christians andnon-Christians will be united in marking the dawn of a new millennium.There will be global celebrations which acknowledge in a symbolic waythe indelible mark which Jesus has made on history, and I hope therewill be much rejoicing!
On 31 December, I will be joining many leading figures fromBritain, including the queen, the prime minster and a wide range ofreligious and civic leaders, for a national celebration in theMillennium Dome. I will have the great privilege and joy of leading thenation in prayer and thanksgiving.
At that moment, with half the world having already entered the year2000, and the other half just about to, I shall be very conscious ofbeing at one with you all as we thank God for his goodness and ask himto bless our future together as part of his one creation.
Of course, being at the Millennium Dome, which has deliberatelybeen developed on the Greenwich Meridian, I am sharply reminded that,for several centuries, we have looked at the world in a veryEurocentricway. For a long time, maps have been centered around Europe, oftenexaggerating its size in comparison with other parts. Much of thelanguage which we use to describe the world -- the Far East, theAntipodes, the West Indies -- assumes that everyone sees the globe froma London perspective.
Well, the Anglican Communion demonstrates so well how thoseperspectives have changed as we enter the new millennium. We are trulyaworldwide Communion, and we are called to value, respect and care forone another. There continue to be so many places and so many people whoare weighed down by the burden of human suffering. We are at one inthatsuffering as we are at one in the joy of faith. Indeed, it is bygrowingin that sense of oneness that our pain is transfigured as we each seekto express God's love in our own lives. It is in that spirit that many people have become very involved inthe campaign to lift the burden of unpayable debt from the poorestcountries of the world. This campaign, led by the Jubilee 2000Coalition, has been very successful in drawing attention to the moraldimensions of the problem, and we must ensure that the momentum ismaintained, and developed into a challenge to ensure that the U.N.targets on poverty reduction by 2015 are achieved.
Let me then end this Christmas message by recalling that the"Eurocentricity" of our modern world is a recent phenomenon. Many ofthemedieval maps which exist -- we have a wonderful example in HerefordCathedral -- place Jerusalem at the center. As we remember with joyGod's presence with us, and dedicate ourselves afresh in his service aswe begin the new millennium, let us pray for the peace of Jerusalem,spiritual home for millions of people, Christian, Muslim and Jew. Maythe Prince of Peace reign in our hearts and our lives this Christmas,and may the peace of God, which passes all understanding, invade thisworld, bringing joy and hope in our believing.
World Council of Churches General Secretary Konrad Raiser
The celebrations of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, which Christianchurches around the world are preparing this year, are inevitablymarkedby the approach of the end of a century and the dawn of a newmillennium.
Bethlehem will be the scene of a major commemoration of the passingof two thousand years since Jesus' birth, televised throughout theworld. Countless Christmas pilgrims are expected in Nazareth, Jerusalemand many other places linked to the life of Jesus.
But this will be a special Christmas everywhere. Even people who donot belong to any church will be drawn to the light which is shiningforth from the one Christians confess as the Son of God who has enteredhuman history.