From the Desk of the Presiding Bishop
“For unto us a child is born …” This is the essential message of the Christmas story.
The birth of a child or grandchild are among the most memorable experiences of the lives of many. Witnessing the birth of a baby is about as close to a miracle as you can get. I can only imagine the experience from a mother’s perspective.
This makes me wonder what Joseph and Mary must have experienced that night Jesus was born. The scriptures do not give us much to go on, but I can imagine they were just as proud and awestruck as any of us would have been. They would have seen in their precious little baby all of their hopes and dreams of the coming years as a family together.
Wrapped up in those swaddling clothes was more than a newborn infant, it was the embodiment of Mary and Joseph’s hope and promise and the fulfillment of their lives. I can imagine Joseph thinking about how, one day, he would get Jesus a set of tools and teach him to work with his hands and be a craftsman, to make things useful and long-lasting – and Mary, how she would tell him stories and sing him songs, and how she would teach him to be useful around the house and to listen to his heart, as well as to other people.
Babies symbolize our hopes and dreams for the future, and, thinking about the future, these are the types of things every parent longs for with their children.
But in the case of Jesus’ birth, there is more, for wrapped up in the birth of Jesus are not only the hopes and dreams of Mary and Joseph, but the hopes and dreams of all creation. Phillips Brooks said it best when he wrote,
“O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by.
Yet, in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting light;
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.”
In Jesus lies not only the hope of a new life that has come into this world, but of a new creation that has dawned in the fullness of time. In his Letter to the Romans, Paul writes,
“For we know that the whole creation
groans and travails in pain together until now.
Not only so, but ourselves also,
who have the first fruits of the Spirit,
even we ourselves groan within ourselves,
waiting for adoption, the redemption of our body.”
The birth of Jesus signals the start of a new covenant and a new order of being in which God judges us not on the basis of our righteousness, but on the basis of his grace and love. And this is the Good News:
“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old things have passed away. Behold,
all things have become new. But all things are of God, who reconciled us to himself through
Jesus Christ, and gave to us the ministry of reconciliation…”
(2 Corinthians 5:17-18)
Christmas is the celebration of Jesus’ birth, but that’s only the beginning. What we celebrate at Christmas is actually the beginning of a new way of life made possible by the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ,
• … a new way of life when “nation will not lift up sword against nation, neither will they learn
war anymore.” (Micah 4:3)
• … a new way of life when “The wolf will live with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down
with the young goat; The calf, the young lion, and the fattened calf together; and a little child
will lead them.” (Isaiah 11:6)
• … a new way of life when “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man,
there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)
• … a new way of life when “…God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away
from them every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; neither will there be mourning, nor
crying, nor pain, anymore. The first things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:3-4)
In the New Creation, we will regard others not on the basis of wealth and power, but on how sensitive and caring and compassionate they are toward those in need. Love will be our greatest strength, and the willingness to forgive, our defining trait; and every time we see an act of kindness, especially toward one who cannot begin to reciprocate or repay, we will know that the New Creation of Jesus Christ is near.
It all began with the birth of Jesus, and this is what I hope you will remember this Christmas. The birth of Jesus we celebrate on Christmas Day is the beginning of new life for everyone who is willing to follow in his footsteps and walk in the light of his forgiveness and love. May the joy of Christmas and the reality of the New Creation be yours, now and always.
Be blessed! I remain
Yours in Christ our Emmanuel,
The Most Reverend Martin de Porres Griffin