Christmas Message from Archbishop Patrick C. Pinder

December 2011

 

Time passes quickly. It is hard to believe that we are already about to celebrate Christmas once again. But we are! The message of this Feast and Season is a very comforting one. It does not vary. It is a message of hope. It is a message of Joy. It is a message, which defies the gloom of the moment and lifts our thoughts and our spirits as we hear again the message of the prophets and the message of the angels.

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone.” (Isaiah 9:1)

Those hope-filled words from the ninth chapter of the Book of the Prophet Isaiah greet us as we enter into the celebration of the liturgy for Christmas. For us, there is no doubt about the light of which the prophet speaks when he says: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.” Jesus Christ, whose birth we celebrate at Christmas, he is that light.

Of course, darkness can overshadow us in many ways. The shadow of darkness stalks us as we notice the steady climb in our murder rate as we approach the end of this year.

At the same time, we are deeply grateful that our brush with Hurricane Irene was not as devastating as it might have been. So, in spite of everything, as we come to this time of year we can look back with hearts full of thankfulness.

On a note of thankfulness, here is a message I received by e-mail, which I shared in this message a few years ago. It says:

“If you have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof overhead and a place to sleep…you are richer than 75% of this world.

If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change in a dish someplace…you are among the top 8% of the worlds wealthy.

If you woke up this morning with more health than illness…you are more blessed than the million who will not survive this week.

If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture, or the pangs of starvation…you are ahead of 500 million in the world.

If you can attend church without fear of harassment, arrest, torture or death…you are more blessed than three billion people in the world.

If you hold up your head with a smile on your face and are truly thankful… you are blessed because the majority can but most do not.

If you can hold someone’s hand, hug them or even touch them on the shoulder … you are blessed because you can offer the healing touch.

Then the message concludes:

If you can read this message, you just received a double blessing in that someone was thinking of you, and furthermore, you are more blessed than over two billion people in the world who cannot read at all.”

The source is not given but the message is clear Thankfulness is an appropriate attitude. This is especially important to remember at this time of year.

In our tradition, the Sunday following Christmas is the Feast of the Holy Family. We think of the Holy Family and we imagine Joseph, Mary and the infant Jesus. We recall the many trials they may have had. The gospel gives us an example of their flight from Israel to Egypt and back. All this was to protect the child from the violence and harm, which is all too present in our world still.

This day and this time of year is a fitting time to think of our own families. When we think of our family, these thoughts may evoke feelings of pride, or anger, or guilt, or issues unresolved. Never the less, we should think of our families at this time.

Father, mother, sister, brother, these are not just words. They are statements about relationships. Relationships are important in our lives. The most natural of our relationships is family. This is a time to remember and to be with family.

One of the images we associate with Christmas is that of the angels. The Gospel of Luke presents their song of praise at the birth of Christ. It says:

“Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests.” (Luke 2:14)

Of course, in our worship we sing this song of praise throughout the year in that great hymn of praise we call the “Gloria.” It is a reminder to us that the spirit of joy and generosity, which we associate with Christmas, should be a staple feature of our lives all year round.

I remind you all once again that when the song of the angels is stilled and when the shepherds are back with their flock and when all the lights and decorations are safely put away for another year, it is then that the work of Christmas begins. That work is:

To find the lost

To heal the broken

To feed the hungry

To visit the sick and imprisoned

To make peace where there is discord

To bring joy to every heart

To do all we can to build our nation into a community of caring, compassionate, cconcerned and committed citizens.

Let us dwell on these thoughts this Christmas Season.

Again the song of the angel is “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests.”

May the favor of God come to rest on each one of us this Christmas Day and remain with us, always.

Merry Christmas!