METROPOLITAN METHODIOS' CHRISTMAS MESSAGE

My brothers and sisters in the Household of God,

            This Christmas, in the darkness that surrounds us, the light of the world, Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God comes to grant to each of us the gift of salvation.  He comes once again to be born into a world of chaos, a world torn by strife, our nation still at war in Iraq and Afghanistan.  He comes once again to  see Jews and Palestinians continuing to kill one another in the land where the blood of thousands of infants was shed that first Christmas.

            Anxiety fills our hearts.  Anxiety about losing our jobs and not being able to pay our mortgages.  Anxiety about losing all our life’s savings and investments. Anxiety about the economic crisis in America caused by the insatiable greed of Wall Street tycoons and unethical members of Congress. 

            As men and women of faith, we are distressed that our nation is permeated with misery, tragedy, violence, scams, scandals and all manner of betrayal of what is enobling and uplifting. 

            We’re ashamed that our children are exposed in their classrooms to unethical lifestyles as early as in their kindergarten years. 

            We’re horrified that the law legalizes abortion and sanctions the abandonment of children by their parents. 

            We’re appalled with the loss of innocent lives in India at the hands of murderous terrorists whose ultimate goal is to destroy America and annihilate western civilization.

            We’re mortified over the lingering plight of the victims of famine and disease in Africa.  There are over 250,000 refugees in the Congo, Uganda, Nigeria and Cameroon.  Hundreds are dying of hunger and cholera while thousands cannot find drinkable water. 

            We’re ashamed of the fact that there are homeless and hungry in our own neighborhoods---in cities and towns throughout America. 

            All this horror is the result of the moral decay and chaos permeating the entire world.   The foundations of the old have been undermined by a consummate distortion of life’s meaning.  Under the guise of freedom of thought and speech, the very foundations of society are collapsing.  We’re living in a culture of narcissism and greed.

            Next to the Nativity scene in the Capital Building of the State of Washington, stands a poster placed by atheists ridiculing belief in God and the Birth of the Savior.  Posters on city busses in our nation’s capital, Washington, D.C., read “you don’t have to believe in God, just be good for goodness sake.” 

            The cancer of immorality has metastasized to every aspect of life and threatens the very survival of mankind.  We’ve reached rock bottom witnessing a governor attempting to sell the Senate seat held by the person recently elected President of the United States.

            My brothers and sisters in Christ,

            Centuries ago, that first Christmas Eve, an angel’s voice penetrated the fear and anxiety that gripped the hearts of the shepherds to assure them that they had nothing to fear.  That same angel  comes this Christmas to assure us that we have nothing to fear either, so long as we muster the courage to soar above our personal limitations to see God’s abiding love for humanity. 

            The angel says, “I come to proclaim good news to you --- tidings of great joy to be shared by all people”.  The angel’s message heralding “tidings of great joy” is not for a few, but for everyone.  The freshness of that message is never exhausted. 

Yes, my brothers and sisters,

            The angel speaks of tidings of great joy for us who listen in faith THIS Christmas.  Whatever the circumstances in our personal lives and the life of the world, JESUS is for those who believe the Savior, the Messiah, the Lord.

            The infant Savior of the world comes this year to prick the mesmerizing torpor of our comforts.  He comes to inspire us as a community of Christians, but also INDIVIDUALLY to face and act on our responsibilities so that what many fatalists view as part of a cycle of inevitability can be broken.

            In the frightening fear of an unprecedented nuclear, chemical or biological catastrophe predicted by experts, the infant Jesus reveals the way to freedom, the way to life as it was meant to be lived.  He comes this Christmas as an innocent child to enter our lives, to bring hope and salvation.

            In the book of Revelation we read: “Behold I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him and he with me.” (3:20) 

            The question is whether we will notice Christ this Christmas.  Whether we will have time to dine with Him or whether we will be too busy with our Christmas parties. 

            I wonder whether we will hear Jesus knocking at our door.  Surely we will see the postman bringing Christmas cards and presents.  And the florist flowers.  And the children caroling.   Surely, we will see  the  Christmas lights at our windows, the wreaths on our doors, the Christmas trees in our living rooms, the table teeming with good things to eat. 

            A Christmas however that is missing Christ—a Christmas devoid of a sense of rebirth--is at best only a jubilant celebration that leaves us with no abiding influence to grace and transfigure our lives.  Such a Christmas is robbed of its true essence which is the presence of the infant Savior. Unless and until we open the doors to Him who stands at our door and knocks we will not experience a new beginning.  We will not realize a new hope.

            It is only if we invite the incarnate Savior to enter our lives that we can be renewed. 

            It is only then that we can make a personal contribution to the betterment of the human condition. 

            It is only then that we can help put an end to violence and terrorism in the relations of people and nations and establish the foundations of world peace.

            It is only then that social injustice can be abolished and hunger eliminated.

            It is only then that we will be able to respect the human rights and dignity of all – even those who don’t believe as we do.

            How tragic it is for men and women of faith to witness Judeo Christian tradition being written off.              How tragic it is to see the usefulness of history as mankind’s tutor being demeaned.              How tragic it is for men and women of faith to see agnosticism, secularism, nihilism, even satanism, installed on the altar of worship.              How tragic it is to see cynicism and hedonism elevated to the dignity of ethical and philosophical systems.  No wonder we are harvesting the bitter fruits of moral alienation, crime, violence and death in all their grisly guises!

            My brothers and sisters, the celebration of the Birth of Christ summons us to a life of purity, of sanctity and wholeness.  A life that has the power to expel all those forces that spell death. 

            The infant Jesus comes to raise us from our repeated falls.  He comes to free us from the abuses of freedom and to restore God’s image in us. 

            This Christmas, the infant Savior comes to renew our way of thinking, to reorder the priorities in our lives, to free us from the bondage of sin.  He comes this Christmas to redeem us as St. Paul writes, “that we might receive adoption as sons” (Galatians 4,5).  The infant Savior comes in humility to disperse the darkness that we have accumulated around us because of our sinful choices.

            St. John the Evangelist writes “to all who received him, who believed in his name he gave power to become Children of God (1,12).

            This Christmas, I pray that we have the courage to open the door of our lives and receive Him, so that we may be able to recognize the radiance of the Sun of Righteousness amid the Christmas glitter.

I pray that we open the door of our lives so that He ‘who stands and knocks’ may enter.

This Christmas, I pray that our hearts be transfigured into humble mangers worthy to become the birthplace of the Incarnate Lord.

May the Incarnate Savior come to rescue us from all the unpleasantness and sadness, all the tragedy and viciousness that assault us as individuals, as communities, as a nation.

 

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