From the Bishop: Christmas
Some two thousand years ago a baby was born in a Bethlehem barn whose birth we still celebrate every year at this time. It hardly seems to matter that we know so little about him: we know nothing of what he looked like, little about his family life … even the actual date of his birth are all lost to history. Still every year at this time his nativity is remembered throughout the earth, as Christian people celebrate the great miracle and profound theological truth, that in Jesus, God becomes an incarnate human being.
It would be an understatement to say that his followers have imperfectly followed the teachings and witness of our incarnate God. Faithful priests will be crafting Christmas homilies in the days ahead, and a theme of many of those sermons will be the hope for change and growth in the face of our failure to be the people Jesus calls us to be.
– Commanded to care for those living in poverty and prison, even to the extent of giving away our last coin and coat, Christ’s followers have instead invested immense amounts of wealth into propping up the institution of “the Church,” while neglecting the needs of the poor and the outcast.
– Confronted with a Gospel of non-violence and the consistent teaching that God’s love is sacrificial and self-emptying, Christ’s followers have substituted nationalism and patriotism for discipleship, often embracing militarism and even genocide under the guise of Christian nation building and “just” wars.
– Commissioned to share news of a loving and forgiving God with the whole world, and to seek out the person of Christ in serving with and caring for others, Christ’s followers have consistently laid bright boundaries around Church communities, embracing a select few as “saved” and demonizing all outsiders.
It is not a stretch to say that we hunger for Christmas. And surely the reason for that is that the story of Christmas reminds us of what is most essential in the Gospel of Jesus, and calls us back to being the people God creates us to be.
The story of a family struggling to make their way in the world and dependent on the hospitality of strangers reminds us reminds of our duty to “the least” in this here and now. The presence of the holy in such “everyday” people and moments as a teenage mom and a bunch of shepherds, reminds us that God still routinely breaks into the everyday of our lives. The story of heavenly messengers proclaiming the birth of God’s chosen one and the salvation of the world reminds us that we still have astonishing news to share.
I pray that you might have a blessed Christmas. May you be drawn again in faith and hope to the story of the baby born in the Bethlehem barn. Come, let us adore him.
The Right Rev. J. Scott Barker
Bishop of Nebraska