Let’s Go to Bethlehem

Christmas message of the General Convent of the Hungarian Reformed Church to Congregations in the Carpathian Basin and around the World

"When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” (Luke 2:15)

Dear Brothers and Sisters in the community of Christ

Even in fear and darkness shepherds of the first Christmas were able to listen to the message of the angel and embraced the testimony of the heavenly host. These ordinary people saw a wonder and heard about the glorious God who is transforming the world where unprecedented peace and goodwill will prevail and fill all the people with joy. Christ was born, thus the grace of God has appeared. (Titus 2:11) He opens up new ways for his people, not because of righteous things we had done, but through the renewal by the Holy Spirit. (Titus 2:5)

Prophets of the Old Testament became silent amidst of the overwhelming destruction. Zackary – the father of John the Baptist – expresses the desire for a completely new world. “... The rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.” (Luke 1:78-79) Throughout our history, our predecessors found themselves in a similar deep darkness and many turned with a plea to Heaven hoping for mercy. We can’t hide ourselves in our everyday dramatic struggle, which is similar to Paul the Apostle’s experience in shipwrecking. “When neither the sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved.” (Acts 27:20)

In the dangerous valleys of death, where we are writhing to forces of loneliness, darkness and helplessness, it is time to follow the example of the shepherds of the first Christmas. Amongs traps, gaps and hostile forces we have to listen to the heavenly voices, understand the words of our Creator, follow Christ and strive for the community of the Holy Spirit. This is an act of self-defense supported by God's mercy, protecting against our own sins and those of our debtors.

The departure of the angel and of the great company of the heavenly host didn’t exasperate the shepherds, they didn’t fall victim to melancholic self-pity. They never cursed God for the brevity of the angel's visit and didn’t blame him for giving them too little of the good! They knew it was their turn to act. One of them said aloud the sentence which can be interpreted as the antidote to fear, surrender and self-abandonmet: “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” Today, in a period where we witness persecution of Christians worldwide, we are compelled to take part in the worship of our own local congregation, whether in person or online. We have to consider what actually happened at Christmas. The shepherds refer to this as the desire to experience closely the word which came true, the real promise. John put down what actually “happened” like this: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

The shepherds of the first Christmas recognized and told it openly that in everything what happened our Lord was at work. This is why it is impossible for us to receive and answer this message; the Good News with uncertainty and irresponsibility. Let us become the old-time shepherds’ current successors and shape our everyday life like it would be Christmas; in credibly communicating the Gospel, building community and humility serving others with the power of the Spirit.

We wish you a blessed Christmas

Presidium of the General Convent of the Hungarian Reformed Church

Bishop Dr. István Szabó and Chief Elder Sándor Veres

Danubian Reformed Church District, Hungary

Bishop Dr. Károly Fekete and Chief Elder János Molnár

Transtibiscan Reformed Church District, Hungary

Bishop József Steinbach and Chief Elder Dr. Pál Huszár

Transdanubian Reformed Church District, Hungary

Bishop József Csomós and Chief Elder Tibor Ábrám

Cistibiscan Reformed Church District, Hungary

Bishop Béla Kató and Chief Elder Dr. Zoltán Dézsi

Reformed Church District in Transylvania, Romania

Bishop István Csűry and Chief ELder Lajos István Bara

Reformed Church District in Királyhágómellék, Romania

Bishop László Fazekas and Chief Elder Vince Fekete

Reformed Christian Church in Slovakia

Bishop Sándor Zán-Fábián and Chief Elder Béla Nagy

Reformed Church in Transcarpatia, Ukraine

Bishop Péter Szenn and Chief Elder József Kel

Reformed Christian (Calvinist) Church in Croatia

Bishop Béla Halász and Chief Elder Károly Székely

Reformed Christian Church in Serbia

The Presidium of the General Convent of the Hungarian Reformed Church is the representative and consulting Body of the reformed Churches in the Carpathian Basin. It is composed of the acting Bishops and Lay Presidents of all the church districts belonging to the Hungarian reformed community in and around Hungary. It coordinates the cooperation of the involved churches and promotes their unity in worship, church life and witness. The General Convent represents around 1,5 Million members. The seven member churches, organized in ten Church Districts live in seven different countries.