Bishop’s Christmas Message
“Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel – ‘God is with us’” (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23)
Here we are again, the church and the world celebrating together the joyful festivities associated with this time of the year – the birthday of Baby Jesus. Christmas (Christ-mass) is when the community of faith gathers around the table of the Lord to share in the Great Thanksgiving honoring what God has done for all humanity. From my global experience, I have witnessed the celebration of the spirit of Christmas, the spirit of giving, across religious boundaries breaching ethnic sensibility and preference. Christmas is truly a global phenomenon.
The Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ reveals the selfless offering of a young woman – Mary, and her willingness to self-empty herself before God to be used for the salvation of the world. The baby Jesus is God’s gift at Christmas to a world darkened by many demonstrations and manifestations of evil – a world where dark deeds of various shapes and forms were both tolerated and promoted. It is about a young child sent to change the world for good. The prophet Isaiah proclaims “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel – ‘God is with us’ (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23). A LIGHT to shine brightly pointing all humanity to the way out of DARKNESS (a darkness understood in the New Testament to be a metaphor for ‘evil or human brokenness’).
Jesus’ birth is one of the holiest events in the world, and with it comes the awareness that God has come down to dwell with us in human form. In dwelling with us, he is transforming the darkness of this world associated with evil, sin and brokenness into light and wholeness. God’s insurmountable love is personally inhabiting us for goodness and righteousness.
At Christmas we hold true to the faith that genuine hope and new life are breathed into our lives so we may start afresh, once again believing in God who first and foremost believed in us, enough to risk his son Jesus to be born as one of us. Recalling the first Christian family, Joseph, Mary and Jesus – the model of all Christian families and the host of heavenly presence associated with his birth, the love we see in Jesus’ family is the love that we are called to show and embody to everyone.
God first loved us, sending his Son into the world as the perfect and wholesome gift to all humanity! It is this gift that began the well-known and much advertised tradition of gift-giving that Christmas has been known and celebrated for over centuries across universal traditions.
Furthermore, the message of Christmas is one of peace and goodwill to all. We share it with each other in a spirit of love, kindness, generosity and self-sacrifice. The barriers, some visible, others invisible, are shattered, even if temporarily, so the light of the Christ child may shine clearly in the lives of us all.
It is no secret that we face many threats and challenges on a daily basis, enough to cause the best and most resilient to question God’s presence. The Christmas message collapses all that anxiety and fear transforming them into optimism and hope filled expressions of a better tomorrow. This Christmas we summon our resolve to be confident in the power of God to change the world through his Son born in Bethlehem’s stable!
Friends, lest we forget, Jesus was born into a world overwhelmed by fear, corruption, oppression, greed, hatred, malice and political instability. There wasn’t a more inopportune time for a perfect God to indwell this world, but he chose to make it Kairos (fullness of time), to be born, and thus, beginning the tough work of restoring broken relationship with GOD.
We remember the homeless in our company, the orphans and widows, we remember refugees all over the world whom the baby Jesus identifies in solidarity with, fully aware that soon after his birth Jesus became a refugee in Egypt, fleeing King Herod’s edict to kill all children under two years of age. We keep praying unceasingly for our beloved sisters and brothers in Ukraine as they valiantly persevere to protect their homeland from intruders. We remember our dedicated and selfless military families who are spending this Christmas without family members because they made the ultimate sacrifice and those serving in combat and non-combat zones. Please say a prayer for those less fortunate, and wherever possible reach out and lend a helping hand. This is what Jesus would expect of us.
The light of the world is here for all to see, worship and embrace. In the comforting words of the angels to the shepherds, “Do not be afraid; for see I am bringing you good news of great joy for all people: to you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord…”.
A Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to our beloved episcopal family in the Diocese of Easton, and all beloved everywhere.
Peace, joy & love!
+San & Lynn