Saturday, December 24, 2016
CHRISTMAS, in the Year of our Lord, the 2016th
Christmas Letter from Presiding Bishop
8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. (Luke 2:8-14 (KJV)
Is the fire of awe rekindled in our hearts at the reading of this wonderful text? I hope so for it is the most gracious and exhilarating news of all time and eternity! It was a very special night that first Christmas of 2000 years ago. By the computations of the Hebrew calendar, our Christmas Eve is actually the first night of Christmas day since the day began at sundown. “. . . . and the EVENING and the morning were the first day” etc. (Genesis 1)
At the Passover Seder, the youngest child present asks four questions, the first of which is “How is this night different from every other night?” When the youth observe the peculiar traditions that characterize the Passover feast, including its meaningful symbols of Christ, it is normal for a child to wonder at them. Of course, the Jews do not recognize those sign posts of Christ in their Passover, but they are overwhelmingly obvious to those whose eyes have been opened to the beautiful mysteries of faith – even a little child. The same awe and mystery surrounds that night long ago in which Christ was born.
When a little child sees the beautiful Christmas Tree, the multi-colored lights, the mention of shepherds and of Wise Men from the East, the candles, and the gifts, should he not be justified in asking, “How is this night different from every other night?” The tokens of love and joy, descending from the heart of God to mankind, are critically important in memorializing the event that is both past and present in our hearts, and the central truth of our salvation. The symbols are important in conveying truth!
The Lord Jesus Christ – not Santa Claus – is the central truth of Christmas. Merry Christmas – not happy holidays – is the proper greeting. The love behind our gifts is the currency of Christ and not a bleak winter day. The candles represent the coming Light just as in the Passover Seder the lady of the house lights the candles and motions her hands over them toward her heart to bring light into her bosom. The symbols of God’s Holy Days (the origin of the term, HOLIDAY) are important in conveying the important treasures of the Heart and of Heaven to succeeding generations. Let’s keep them foremost in our recognition of God’s Hand of Providence in all that we do and believe.
May this Christmas be filled with hope, love, and faith in our Lord and Maker. “God bless us, one and all.”
Jerry L. Ogles, DD
Presiding Bishop Anglican Orthodox Communion Worldwide
Chancellor, Faith Theological Seminary