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My greatest Christmas wish

My greatest Christmas wish

My greatest Christmas wish

23 December 2020

Captain Diane Hobbs (centre) in a sea of Christmas hampers packed by Woolworths personnel (pictured).

By Diane Hobbs 

Since I was a little girl, the Christmas story has meant so much to me. It is probably what drew me to faith in Jesus. 

The overwhelming sense of something/someone much greater than myself started at a very young age and is inextricably linked to who I am today.   

The Christmas story shows that someone greater than us (God) cares intimately for us. It is the record of the Creator of all the universe, stepping tangibly, vulnerably and sacrificially into our world as a baby (Jesus) and ultimately leaving his Spirit to guide us. It shows a God who cares deeply for his creation. 

So, at Christmas time and beyond, there is great comfort in knowing that we are not alone. In our darkest times, God is with us through his Holy Spirit – guiding us, drawing us close and desperate to be in relationship with us. 

Jesus – who grew up as a human – brings the divine element into everyday reality. It means we have a God who has experienced and identifies with the realities of human life. 

Jesus’ model 

As a child, growing up curious about this person Jesus, then later as a follower of Jesus and now as a minister (although not without many questions and challenges), I was always drawn to the accounts of Jesus ‘doing life’ with others. 

The rhythm and pattern in Jesus’ life of coming alongside people, walking with them, eating with them, ministering to them, engaging, yet regularly withdrawing to pray and renew his spirit, while also experiencing displacement, suffering, isolation, separation and persecution, has been the ultimate example to me. 

Reality of faith 

Life can be extremely challenging for all of us. At times, it can seem those challenges and problems are insurmountable.   

For my husband Peter and me, and our family, seeking God amid life’s daily rhythm is not simply theory. Over many years, it has very much become lived experience. 

One such event was during my dad’s passing. Although it was a terribly sad time – facing the imminent loss of someone we all loved so dearly – there was such a deep sense and peace of being enveloped in God’s presence. It was a very sacred and beautiful space.  

Community 

The other element that is so important at Christmas time – and in life in general – is being connected to others in community. We were never created to live in isolation. We need genuine, deep relationships to truly flourish. 

At Christmas time, loneliness and disconnectedness can feel magnified. This is why, on the Bellarine Peninsula where Peter and I minister, we prioritise building very real and deep community connections. We desire to fan the flames of connection, trust and community because giving to others and journeying with others is life-enriching on so many levels. 

We have been created to function best as part of a connected community. 

That is why we often use the language of ‘family’ within Bellarine Salvos. Peter and I passionately see our role as walking alongside and sharing with others in our community for the long term and navigating through the different stages and challenges of life that we all face together. 

Experiencing transformation 

In recent times, we have been privileged to journey with many in our community who are victims of family violence.

They are incredibly courageous – warriors – who are fighting to build a life for themselves and their children (although they would never say that of themselves) amid extreme hardship and often isolation. 

It is an amazing privilege to witness their resilience, strength and determination in the face of extreme challenges. The role we and our community play is coming alongside them, journeying with them, wrapping support around them, accepting them into a loving community without judgement and, really, cheering them on! We often see the miraculous play out in their lives. 

We have seen so many come from great fear, vulnerability and uncertainty, into a space where they begin to flourish. We have witnessed so many lives changed and now moving in a totally different direction. 

It is truly transformative, not just for them, but for all who witness the journey. 

Greatest Christmas wish 

One of my greatest desires for Christmas and the year ahead is that we all might find increasing hope, as we ever-more deeply engage in community. 

In my heart and my experience, this is where God’s love shines most brightly and where transformations occur. 

It is a challenging but beautiful thing to ‘do life’ together – to learn from other generations, from other cultures, and from those with markedly different life experiences than our own. 

Our prayer for our community and for other Salvos communities – nationally and internationally – especially at Christmas time, but also all year-round, is that we can create a safe, trusting space where people can feel loved, accepted and part of a family. This is not always without challenges, but it is our great desire. 

And we pray not just for a shallow sense of community, but for a raw and honest experience of community where we can all explore faith, wrestle with the big and small questions of this challenging life, share our doubts and fears, and find joy and peace. 

Our prayer is that we can help to collectively find a greater sense of belonging that encompasses trust, respect, honesty, faith, love and acceptance.

That’s who Jesus is. And that’s what Christmas is all about.

Captain Diane Hobbs is Corps Officer at Bellarine Peninsula Salvos in Victoria.

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