Bishop Mark’s Christmas Message

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Come, Thou long expected Jesus, born to set Thy people free. From our fears and sins release us, let us find our rest in Thee. Israel’s strength and consolation, hope of all the earth Thou art—Dear desire of every nation, Joy of every longing heart.

Those words were written in 1744 by the prolific hymn-writer Charles Wesley. They are often sung during the season of Advent; a season of longing and expectation which prepares our mind, heart, and soul to celebrate the birth of the Savior.

By the time Christmas day arrives, young children are painfully aware of their longing for all the good things that come with this great feast of the Nativity. They can hardly wait for the gifts to be discovered under the tree on Christmas morning! They wonder if they will receive that special gift that they asked for this year. And they repeatedly express that they can’t wait!

John Wesley reminds us that the strength, the consolation, and the hope of God’s people and even the whole world, are found in the coming of Christ. In the world today, people long for strength as they confront things like war, crime, and poverty. They long for consolation, solace, and the comfort that is nothing more and nothing less than a heartfelt expression of compassion in the face of such tragedies as sickness, violence, oppression, and war.

How is it that our celebration of Christ’s birth, Christmas, can move our hearts beyond all those tragedies that never seem to go away? It begins with the realization that the Lord Jesus was born into the world like us in all ways but sin, so that we might find a share in eternal life.

The birth of Christ reminds us that God has not forgotten us. The Lord Jesus, whose birth we celebrate at Christmas, calls us to share in the eternal life of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is our consolation as we acknowledge our fears and the power that sin seems to have over us and our world.

In the end, the answer to problems and prayer is to be found in the Lord Jesus whose birth we celebrate. The Lord Jesus is kind and merciful. He is the Incarnate Word of God. He is the way, the truth, and the life.

The birth of the Savior happened in a time and place that appeared to be too full to allow Christ to be born. But Mary and Joseph and the Lord Jesus were not entirely alone. The animals in that stable represent God’s creatures, and the shepherds who adored, and the wise men who came bearing gifts represent the best of what can happen when hearts are open to God’s merciful love.

That’s the message we need to share with our children, our families, the poor, the lonely, the refugees from war, and especially those who resort to violence without considering the possibility of seeking peace and reconciliation.

And just in case you think that it’s too much for us to accomplish, think about the 2nd verse of Wesley’s famous Advent-Christmas hymn. It reminds us how the Lord Jesus did the hard work and we are the beneficiaries of his grace and love:

Born thy people to deliver, born a child and yet a King, born to reign in us forever, now thy gracious kingdom bring. By thine own eternal spirit rule in all our hearts alone; by thine all sufficient merit, raise us to thy glorious throne.

Prayers and best wishes to all at Christmas and in the New Year! Please pray for peace!