Bishop Lane's Christmas Message
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I have often wondered why it is that the most important service of the church year for most Episcopalians is Christmas Eve. The rubrics of the Book of Common Prayer make it clear that the Great Vigil of Easter is the central service of the church year. There is no requirement that there should even be a Christmas vigil. And yet, it is on Christmas Eve that our churches are packed and people come expecting to be touched, to be moved, by the Spirit of God.
Why is that?
Perhaps it’s the darkness and cold of this time of year in the northern hemisphere. Christmas is, after all, a solstice festival. Perhaps it is the tiny light in the darkness that the darkness cannot extinguish that gives us hope.
Or perhaps it’s the baby. There is something so new, so fresh, so hopeful about the birth of a child that touches us. Every baby signifies the possibility that things can be different, can be better. And most of us can identify with a baby, with a child. Perhaps it is the child that draws us.
Or perhaps – and this is where I come down – perhaps it’s the idea that God has been at work in secret creating something powerful, something irresistible, that is being set loose on Christmas Eve: a power for love, for peace, for justice that cannot be stopped. The world is being renewed and refreshed in a way that will affect the course of history. And oh, how we ache for that: a world of love and peace, a world of generosity and care, a world of harmony and unity, where lion and lamb are safe and secure together. On Christmas Eve we get to start again, we are born anew, into a world of light and hope.
Easter means that life triumphs – but it comes through death. Christmas picks us up out of our Advent world and tells us that love and hope and joy are real and are possible for us all now.
Wherever you are in your journey through this dark and hungry world, I invite you to light a candle. Let it shine before your face. Let it shine in your heart. God is indeed refreshing us and the world God has created. God is holding before us God’s dream of a better world. God invites us to see it and to come to it.
May you find this Christmas a moment of joy and hope. May Christ’s peace fill your hearts. May Christ call you home to the kin-dom he has been building in secret for all the world to see.