Dear Edwards Church Community,
The conditions that awaited the first Christmas were not encouraging. When Jesus was born, there was tension in the land. Different groups, easy to tell from one another, were afraid of each other. The rich and the poor were afraid of each other. The Gentiles and the Jews were afraid of each other. Meanwhile the Romans built their empire by taking advantage of everyone they kept afraid. Something had to give.
It was hardly the atmosphere that would lead you to expect an infant Messiah, a Prince of Peace, Wonderful Counselor, or God-with-Us in Living Flesh. But those were the very conditions that required him, the same conditions that made so many ordinary people willing to become agents of the faith, messengers of the hope, and carriers of the love born in Bethlehem.
When Jesus was born 2,000 years ago in desperate conditions, his parents fled violence in one country and lived for years as refugees in another, until it was safe to go home. He took his inherited faith seriously, and he refashioned it within the community that formed him, inviting all who would listen to participate in the new life he proclaimed.
We are the living agents of that same faith, the messengers of a timeless hope, and the current carriers of an everlasting love. If the same Spirit that was born in a manager and revealed to the world through Jesus is not shared with the world by us, then there is no Christmas joy.
This is the sacred story entrusted to every Christian. Jesus the Christ is needed in the world, and Jesus the Christ can only be born again, and again, and again when we are open to the outrageous possibility that everything can change for the better – but only if we let it, starting with us. Us as in each one of us and all of us together.
War can be reduced to the point that armed conflict begins to disappear. Hunger and homelessness sent packing. The war economy. Poverty, childhood diseases, you name it. Christmas comes only once a year, and every day we let it. Christmas is celebrated when we need it most, during the longest, coldest nights in our Northern hemisphere, and here at Edwards even in July. Christmas needs to happen whenever we encounter the conditions that cry out for the light and love of Christ.
Against all odds, we have the courage to sing in “O Little Town of Bethlehem”:
How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given! So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of his heaven. No ear may hear his coming but in this world of sin, where meek souls will receive him still, the dear Lord enters in.
Merry Christmas! May it last the whole year long, and may it fill your heart and the hearts of all whom you love, until they overflow with Joy to the World!