A CHRISTMAS MESSAGE FROM BISHOP GRAHAM
The gospel stories of Christmas are warm and rich in detail. Matthew tells of Joseph dreaming, of Isaiah’s prophecy fulfilled and later of the Magi’s visit.* Luke’s account is of Mary giving birth far from home, the stable and the manger, the angels’ singing and the shepherds’ visit.** Every detail of each of these stories is embedded in our memory. Every detail is precious. Who doesn’t love to hear these stories read or to see them acted out? The stories are, as the saying goes, the reason for the season.
And yet this year it’s somehow the Christmas lesson in John that draws my heart.***
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”
In my experience, these Bible verses were always the lesson for the late-night service on Christmas Eve. Late at night, with the younger families and the little children snug at home already, the older people heard:
“The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.”
Maybe it’s because I’m feeling a little older myself these days, but this is the message I’m drawn to as Christmas approaches.
And maybe, too, I’m drawn to this Christmas lesson because of the way that life around me has been going lately. Our culture and our country seem colder and meaner to me than they have in a long time. We’re all being encouraged to look out for ourselves and to stay away from the other, so life feels lonely and hard. Crises in the world don’t seem to be moving toward good resolutions. The darkness seems palpable.
Yet the light has come. Darkness does not overcome it, not this true light.
“The Word became flesh and lived among us.”
Amidst all the bad news, and the fake news, the good news is still proclaimed and still bears fruit. From lives of courage, compassion and hopefulness, the light still shines out. In places large and small where all are welcome, in which all are called to be comforted, and from which all are sent forth to serve the neighbor, in places we know about and places we don’t, the light is shining brilliantly.
And for people like me, always a little bit cynical and always tempted to despair of this world, another verse from John is important to remember, too:
“God so loved the world that he gave his only Son….”
Knowing that the holy light of Christ is shining, I pray that God will give us eyes to see it and hearts to follow where it leads us. And I pray that the bright peace of God will enfold each of us and hold us in God’s love now, throughout these holy days, and forever and ever.
Merry Christmas, and a blessed new year!
*See Matthew 1:18-2:12
**See Luke 2:1-20
*** Bible passages listed by Bishop Graham are John 1:1, John 1:5, John 1:9, John 1:14, and John 3:16.