“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God….” (Luke 2: 13)
The Bible is full of angels. Multitudes of angels are more rare. It is as if the responsibility for announcing the Messiah’s birth is too great for a single angel. The good news to the shepherds, which is also good news for us, has to be announced by a “multitude of the heavenly host.” The Greek actually says something like “a mighty army of angels.” No angel alone would be up to this glorious task.
So from the beginning, the Christmas message has been a shared responsibility. Sometimes it’s hard for us to remember this simple fact, since so many features of the world we live in conspire to make us feel isolated and alone. Many of us carry such heavy personal burdens that time for relationships seems missing from life. Our culture wants us to consider ourselves to be primarily consumer-units (who you are = what you can afford). And many of us live or work in places where we know we are the only Christians, where our commitments, our hopes and dreams would be politely disdained if voiced them. So we keep quiet, even about Christmas, and we say “season’s greetings” to people, and we ask about their “holiday plans.” What more can we really do?
But the whole point of Christmas is that nobody has to feel alone. In Bethlehem God came to gather up the human family. And our Christmas worship unites us to that community, that “great cloud of witnesses,” which shares the responsibility for announcing that God has come to be one of us forever. God doesn’t expect us to do this alone. After all, it took a multitude of angels to get it started. God just asks us to play our part. To praise. To give glory to God.
So in this holy season I praise God for the work and the witness of our Metropolitan Washington, D.C., Synod. In the ministries we share we lift up the gospel of the Lord Jesus, we call others to know him as their savior, we follow his example in serving the poor. Scattered around all over a huge urban area, caught up in a million tasks and a million cares, we are none the less God’s holy people, acting for one another as we act for our Lord.
May this sense of our shared work sustain us in the lonely moments that come upon us all. May we find ourselves making common purpose with all people who serve Jesus, whatever traditions they have learned to love and follow. May this Christmas bring us a new sense of possibility, and new opportunities to bear witness to the hope that is in us. “Glory to God in the highest,” sang the angels. May that be our song, too, practiced faithfully here until we sing it at last before God’s throne.
Bishop Richard Graham
The Rev. Richard H. Graham
Metro D.C. Synod, ELCA