Merry Christmas and a Very Happy New Year

Hyvää joulua ja onnellista uutta vuotta
Frohe Weihnachten und einen guten Rutsch ins neue Jahr.
Glædelig jul og et rigtig Godt Nytår.
Joyeux Noël et une très Bonne Année.
חג שמח וגם שנה טובה מאוד
Nollaig Shona agus Bliain An-Shona Nua.
Buon Natale e Felice Anno Nuovo.
God Jul og et veldig Godt Nyttår.
عيد ميلاد سعيد وسنة جديدة سعيدة جدا
In Bethlehem, the place of Jesus’ birth  is marked with a silver star. Millions of people have made a pilgrimage and touched this star with their fingers or their lips. 
How precious it is to get even one glimpse of where Jesus has been, let alone to actually touch him in person. Yet, because of his birth in this humble place you can have complete confidence that he knows your name, he knows your life, he knows your heart, he knows your love for him and he knows your destiny. You can have confidence because he has already made his own pilgrimage and touched you.
Because Jesus the Son of God has already made the pilgrimage to Bethlehem for our sakes, the value we place on his birth is all about the measure of greatness he feels for us. I feel sure that he is pleased if each Christmas we remember him and that four-day walk from Nazareth inside young Mary. More pleased is he however when we honour his life’s work for our sakes. Most happy is he when we raise up ourselves in him to become the shining stars he came to create.
This year Pope Benedict 16 will be making his Christmas message from the Catholic Church situated near the silver star. In November I had the great pleasure of meeting two of Jesus’ shining stars,  Heidi Kühn and her daughter Keili. They go into old war landscapes and replace the residue land mines with vines and crops ( She will be sitting with the Pope in Bethlehem this year, and he will mention her work in his homily.
Jesus’ birth brings fresh vines into human lives that are littered with the land mines of sin and orphanhood — inherited, self made, unseen, crippling and always devastating. 
The little town of Bethlehem is now a sprawling city under siege. Both sides have their story, their voices and their excuses. I was there last week with friends who were shocked by the abrupt violence and cruelty of the wall.
Bethlehem today speaks to us about how our own lives so often begin under siege. We often feel hemmed in, trapped and undernourished in so many ways. As youngsters we sometimes long to escape the intolerable authority of our family homes. As young adults we sometimes long to escape the work-a-day world and just drop out. Some people long to escape from their marriages and others to escape from their unmarried condition. Some people crave to escape from their uncertainty, from themselves and some even successfully abandon the gift of life altogether.
It’s not easy knowing about God in a way that works and ticks all the boxes. It’s even more difficult volunteering for the way that eventually brings about a fusion of our own will with the Father’s will—yet, that perennially remains the challenge and goal given to all human life.
Perhaps your year has been tough. Mine has. Mary’s has been tougher. Others have been difficult, like my friend KC who needed emergency heart surgery, my friend LeRoy who suffers from an accident in Alaska, and other who have endured disappointments seemingly too great to bear. We lost friends this year too, and with great affection we remember Ute, Colleen and others dear to us. But the good news is that the best is yet to come for all of us. God turns all things to good for the believer. His plans never fail, and his help to bring us into his plans for our every-increasing well being is ever present.
Do you know the best thing about a siege like the one in Bethlehem? No, me neither. But I praise God that Jesus breaks us out of the siege around our lives. Jesus uplifts us and inspires us and draws us into new life. Such freedom is truly worth it! Life, ultimately, is all about acquiring and using the righteous freedom to make choices that deliver us ever greater righteous freedom. Truth, beauty, goodness and even wisdom are nothing if we lack freedom in God’s will.
Christmas is all about gifts and trees, fragrant fresh pine smells and bells, wrapping paper and meals with those we love and those we have to love, and of course the children. This year I am the one dressing up as Santa Claus on Christmas Day lunch to surprise and bless our two-year old miracle boy . . . the one God promised to a couple in the family who could not have children. 
Christmas is joyful and full of family fun or lonely and depressing: there doesn’t seem to be a middle way for the one who knows of Jesus. But, all that tinsel and glitter aside, the birth of the Son of God in Bethlehem is all about One who so loved us that He gave his only Son that we might have life and have it in abundance even though we begin life almost wholly incapable of receiving him.
This Christmas, with all our love Mary and I wish you His life and it in abundance. Peace be upon your heart and your home. Joy be upon your heart and your future prospects. Love be in your spirit and in the words you receive from others. 
May the power of the Holy Spirit be usable by you in all your challenges in the New Year, so that truly you can sleep well each night knowing that you are well-pleasing to God your own Father and that you have real and visible spirit-filled dominion over your world.
You have made our lives richer for knowing you, more blessed for being able to walk with you in God’s perfect and matchless outpouring, and more gladsome for the opportunity of life you have shared with us. We pray that we have blessed your life this year, and we look with joy to striving to share God’s blessing with you next year. For us there is no greater joy than to pour out our lives so that the world knows the Father, His Son Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and the Father’s program for our perfection—and we are so very glad to walk hand in hand with you in this joy. Merry Christmas our very dear friend, and every blessing be upon your new year, 2012,
Rob and Mary Crickett.