Bishop Adams' Christmas Message
December 18, 2015
Dear Clergy and People of Central New York,
The Feast of the Nativity is full of nostalgia and sentiment for most people. I like a lot of it quite honestly, as it invokes memories of simpler times and a less encumbered life. Visions of my kids dressed up in bathrobes or angel wings warm my heart. At the same time, as I wrestle with the evils of the world so starkly presented before you and me on CNN and other media outlets, mere sentimentality does not sustain me nor give me hope over the long haul.
“The Word was made flesh and lived among us…full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Is it blasphemous for me to say, “So what?” Need I tick off the laundry list of broken humanity? Whose heart and soul does not ache while facing families in crisis, parishes in conflict, ISIS, climate change, a dysfunctional Congress, the murder of thousands in South Sudan and Pakistan, institutional racism, Wall Street shenanigans, the militarization of police departments, and all of the other ills that plague our communities and world.
Yet…Yet. The celebration of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth comes in the midst not of a bucolic picture of peace and serenity, but a world of economic struggle, oppressive governments and religious systems that had lost their way. Now, as then, the data does not indicate that all is in cooperation with God’s vision for the world. The celebration of God among us in the flesh, however, invites a single-minded focus. If attended in prayer and a sense of awe, one can discover a hunger, a yearning, from deep within one’s heart for God alone, for we know that given the condition of the world, nothing else will satisfy. It is the peace that passes all understanding for it makes no sense based on the data.
We can even know joy, but not because of the circumstances around us, for the world’s assault does not give us much evidence. Joy comes from the promise, the promise that God is in our midst and with a trust that God’s promises of restoration and a new creation are assured. It is the stuff of faith. After all, we do not speak of the Christian certainty, we speak of the Christian faith.
In Jesus, the “Word made flesh,” we embrace the possibility that heaven and earth are joined, even inseparable. Our call today is to once again sing the song of the angels, to know as St. Vincent is to have said, “God thirsts to be thirsted after.” We are called to have such an integrity of life and soul that we know we stand on holy ground each moment of every day and that The Manger is a promise of presence that will never let us go.
I leave you with a reflection from Madeleine L’Engle in Cry Like a Bell:
“In the mystery of the Word made flesh the Maker of the stars was born. We cannot wait till the world is sane to raise our songs with joyful voice, for to share our grief, to touch our pain, he came with Love: Rejoice! Rejoice!”
A blessed and holy Nativity with a grateful heart to all of you,
Presiding Bishop’s Christmas message 2014
May Christ be born anew in you this Christmastide
The altar hanging at an English Advent service was made of midnight blue, with these words across its top: “We thank you that darkness reminds us of light.” Facing all who gathered there to give thanks were images of night creatures – a large moth, an owl, a badger, and a bat – cryptic and somewhat mysterious creatures that can only be encountered in the darkness.
As light ebbs from the days and the skies of fall, many in the Northern Hemisphere associate dark with the spooks and skeletons of secular Hallowe’en celebrations. That English church has reclaimed the connection between creator, creation, and the potential holiness of all that is. It is a fitting reorientation toward the coming of One who has altered those relationships toward new possibilities for healing and redemption.
Advent leads us into darkness and decreasing light. Our bodies slow imperceptibly with shorter days and longer nights, and the merriness and frantic activity around us are often merely signs of eager hunger for light and healing and wholeness.
The Incarnation, the coming of God among us in human flesh, happened in such a quiet and out of the way place that few noticed at first. Yet the impact on human existence has been like a bolt of lightning that continues to grow and generate new life and fire in all who share that hunger.
Jesus is among us like a flitting moth – will we notice his presence in the street-sleeper? He pierces the dark like a silent, streaking owl seeking food for hungry and defenseless nestlings. He will overturn this world’s unjust foundations like badgers undermining a crooked wall. Like the bat’s sonar, his call comes to each one uniquely – have we heard his urgent “come and follow”?
God is among us, and within us, and around us, encountering, nudging, loving, transforming the world and its creatures toward the glorious dream the shepherds announced so many years ago, toward the beloved community of prophetic dreams, and the nightwatch that proclaims “all is well, fear not, the Lord is here.”
May Christ be born anew in you this Christmastide. May his light burn in you, and may you labor to spread it in the darkness. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light, and it is the harbinger of peace for all creation.
The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church