My dear beloved Albanian community and friends

It is that time of the year – the joy of the Christmas season is here with us again and as we prepare our minds and our hearts to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, we too look forward to the New Year, 2023. We also realize that we have come to the end of a long and busy year. I know that each one of us has had different experiences and for some this has been a year filled with excitement and great success. However, for others 2022 may have been filled with several disappointments or failures. Many of us continue to be uncomfortable with the recent developments in our beloved South Africa and may be feeling anxious and nervous about the future and direction our country is taking.

Life can be very unpredictable, and one can never be sure how things will turn out, no matter how well we plan or how much we know. However, as we prepare to celebrate Christmas, I would like to remind you that we belong to a loving and faithful God, a God in whom we can draw strength and hope from, no matter where life takes us. I have found a lot of comfort and encouragement through the words of one of my favourite carols, “Once in Royal David’s City” which is a timeless reminder of the Gospel Message of Christmas.

The second and fourth verses: “He came down to earth from heaven, who is God and Lord of all, And His shelter was a stable, And His cradle was a stall; With the poor, and mean, and lowly, Lived on earth our Saviour holy. For he is our childhood’s pattern; Day by day, like us He grew; He was little, weak and helpless, Tears and smiles like us He knew; And He feeleth for our sadness, And He shareth in our gladness”.

These beautifully written words tell a story of a loving God who wants to be a big part of our lives because he knows and fully understands all of our pain and suffering; a God who though His Son Jesus has made it possible for us to be one with Him regardless of our shortcomings. I want you to be encouraged that no matter what the world may look like or what challenges we go through, God is on our side. Many times at Christmas we think of Jesus as the helpless baby lying on a bed of straw, yet ‘He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together’ (Colossians 1:17), and the Jesus we worship now is not the baby of Bethlehem but the risen Christ glimpsed in the vision of John in the first chapter of Revelation whose face is like the sun in its full brilliance (Revelation 1:16). This is the glorified Jesus who will be revealed to all as Lord, Saviour. As we celebrate Christmas this year and look ahead and prepare our self for 2023 please remain hopeful; God is still in control even during this time of confusion and uncertainty.

May our Lord Jesus Christ, born in Bethlehem, bless you, your families and loved ones at this blessed time of hope and grace, Amen.
Yours in Christ,

Reverend (Fr) Thabang Bengani