2017 Christmas Message from the Rt. Rev. Thomas C. Ely: Click here to view the video!
“Be not afraid; for behold I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people;” This birth, which the angels announced to the Shepherds as “good news of a great joy,” is God’s gift of LOVE and HOPE to the world – to all its people – for all time. GOOD NEWS! GREAT JOY! That is what Christmas is all about. The Good News is LOVE, the Great Joy is HOPE.
The words to one of the less familiar Christmas hymns begins:
Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, Love divine,
Love was born at Christmas,
Star and Angels gave the sign
These words remind me, and I hope you, as well, that Christmas is a celebration of something we have been given and that something is LOVE – Love in person! In my mind, there is only one reason why we give gifts during this holy season, and that is because of the loving gift of the one whose coming we celebrate at Christmas: Jesus the Christ.
Buried within the winter of our hearts is the first green hint of new life. The great drama of our redemption, begun with the first breath of our first parents is about to quicken its pace. For at Christmas, we celebrate the birth of one whose life and death reveals the very nature of God’s unconditional LOVE for us.
Born because of God’s LOVE, he would die and rise again fulfilling God’s loving purpose for the world. That LOVE, expressed in acts of mercy, compassion, sacrifice, forgiveness, justice and peace offers a pattern for our life as well. The Good News is Love! Love made flesh. The Great Joy is Hope! Hope made flesh.
I like what Henri Nouwen writes in The Road to Daybreak:
Somehow, I realized that songs, music, good feelings, glorious liturgies, nice presents, big dinners, and many sweet words do not make Christmas. Christmas is saying ‘yes’ to something beyond all emotions and feelings. Christmas is saying ‘yes’ to a hope based on God’s initiative which has nothing to do with what I think or feel. Christmas is believing that the salvation of the world is God’s work and not mine. Things will never look just right or feel just right. If they did, someone would be lying…But it is into this broken world that a child is born who is called the Light of the World, the Prince of Peace.
Mary and Joseph were expecting. They were expecting a child. They were expecting birth. They were expecting the future. They said YES. May that expectation, which is filled with love and hope, be our YES as well this Christmas. A blessed Christmas to you all!