OPENING OF CHRISTMAS AT THE CATHEDRAL
St. Mary’s Cathedral Forecourt, Sydney, 8 December 2022
Welcome to our Christmas at the Cathedral celebration at St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney. I acknowledge our hosts St Mary’s Cathedral and the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney. I thank our sponsors, especially Paynter Dixon, the NSW Government, and CommBank; our collaborators Electric Canvas and Epic Team; our media partner Channel 7; and those providing music, entertainment or prayer here in the cathedral forecourt or within the cathedral every night till Christmas. A big thank you to the contributors and a big welcome to the participants!
This is the 13th time St Mary’s has had the privilege of staging Sydney’s favourite Christmas event, bringing together families, friends and community to enjoy the architectural masterpieces and natural beauty of our city, art and technology at the service of its faith, the goodness and cleverness of its people. For the next 18 nights, from 7 to 10:30, the cathedral forecourt will be a place of Christmas joy with its amazing light show, live performances, market stalls, two nativity scenes, twenty Christmas trees and more. This year the doors of the cathedral and of the crypt will be open wide so you can have a good look around. Welcome to my place, your place, God’s place!
The name El Niño means The Boy or the Christ-child and was the name 17th-century South American fishermen gave a weather pattern that typically peaks around Christmas. In certain years the trade winds weaken, the Pacific jet stream moves south, warm water is pushed east towards the Americas, and for Australia it means a long hot summer, even drought and bushfire. The name La Niña, the opposite of El Niño, literally means The Girl, and while there is no Christmas girl, today (8th December) is traditionally the conception day of Mary. During La Niña the trade winds, jet stream and warm water push in the opposite direction, and for Australians that means a wet summer, even floods. Much as we love the Baby Mary, we’ve had rather too much of her mischief lately, and it is good news that the worst of La Niña seems to be behind us!
In view of the flood damage suffered by many in our state and nation in recent times, the proceeds from this year’s Christmas at the Cathedral event will go directly toward providing relief to those impacted by the NSW flood disaster. I encourage everyone to be generous. Likewise, our theme for this year’s light show will be hope and peace amidst struggle. We will see how God always remains near to us, directing, guiding and leading us through the floods of this life, and sending His gentle rains of grace when we most need them.
So in our first segment tonight we’ll see that in the beginning God’s Spirit hovered over the waters of creation, transforming them into a life-giving spring, feeding a flourishing garden, sustaining every kind of living thing. The image of a radiant dove represents God’s Spirit creating and sustaining, watching over and inspiring our natural world from the beginning.
Not only does God want to give us life in this beautiful natural world, He wants to joins us in that world so He can redeem it and save us. And so, the second part of tonight’s display will track the Christmas story of the real El Niño and La Niña. Beginning with the Angel’s announcement to Mary that she will conceive Jesus, we will witness her making her way with Joseph to Bethlehem and finding no place in the inn—like those in war or flood devastated places this year. Still, she trusts in God, she knows the protective Dove is watching over her family, just as He was brooding over the waters of creation at the beginning, just as He announced an end to the flood in Noah’s day, just as He would descend upon Jesus in the Jordan. God is with us through the floods and the droughts of our lives.
And I pray that this year’s event will be a source of hope and peace for all of you and for everyone in our city, state and nation. God bless you and your loved ones with hope and peace in this holy season. And now let there be lights!