Darwin-born artist Gracie Kumbi’s artwork Three hunters featured in the service. Gracie lives on Malfiyin Country and she created her artwork at Nauiyu Nambiyu in Daly River.
Through her art, Gracie wants us to reflect on the reality that many in our world must make do as best they can because of the decisions of others. As viewers, she wants us to be reassured that God is with the vulnerable, those fearful of what the day may bring. Gracie celebrates the resilience of parents who, despite disruptions, do the best they can for those in their care.
Medical doctor and historian Luke wrote about the first Christmas in the Bible, and his story is used by Gracie to invite us to think about who or what defines us. While Luke wrote about a feed trough repurposed to serve as Jesus’s first bed, Gracie opts to show how women in her community care for newborns by placing Jesus in a shaped and decorated wooden bowl, called a coolamon. Joseph, a carpenter from Nazareth, is shown as a skilled worker with timber, the creator of a bush shelter, a place to rest safely and be with those whom he loves. Both Mary and Joseph are shown seated, waiting to share their news with any visitor.
For Gracie, the Bethlehem shepherds, who were the first outside of Mary and Joseph’s family and friendship network to hear about God’s plans, are forevermore to be seen as the receivers and givers of God’s peace. She opts to depict these first visitors as her own community’s traditional hunters. Hunters, like shepherds, then and now are skilled in living outdoors, they know what changing weather seasons bring, they know the safest way to get themselves and others from one place to another and most importantly where water and food can be found. They are skilled, reliable and worth listening to. For Gracie, they remind us of the God given peace that is both available now and still to come.
Hopefully, in the coming weeks, we will all have opportunities to be like the shepherds and bring comfort to others. Interestingly, as an adult, Jesus often spoke about himself as the Good Shepherd who ensures we can know peace regardless of our circumstances and events unfolding around us.
One way we as a community can care for our neighbours throughout the Christmas season is through the Baptcare Giving Tree. Donations of new toys and items suitable for teenagers can now be left at Middle School reception and placed under the Christmas tree. All donations to Baptcare will be given to people in need living in metropolitan and regional Victoria.
As we move towards Christmas, may the following prayer, based on a prayer by Austin Fleming, help guide our decision making.
Let us pray.
Loving God may the experience of the shepherds remind us that you are active in our world.
We pray for your peace in all places.
For it is likely that sometime today
someone will push our buttons
challenge our good will
misread our intentions
try our patience
judge us in haste
test our kindness
or do all of the above.
Like you did with the shepherds give us the grace we all need at such times
to respond with patience
to trust and accept
to listen carefully
to reach out in peace
to be fair and just
to anticipate goodness
in all the words and deeds we receive.
May we like the Bethlehem shepherds be the receivers and givers of your peace in troubled times. Amen.
Rev. Scott Bramley
Middle School Chaplain