BISHOP'S CHRISTMAS MESSAGE 2018
My dearest Sisters and Brothers in Christ Jesus,
There is a meme floating about the internet with variations of the following theme:
The words are often shared with a picture of a Nativity scene or an icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The point is to debunk both the foolhardy notion that there is a “war on Christmas” in 21 st century America and the materialistic focus of the season. It is a call back to the teaching and very person of Jesus Christ, the Incarnate One.
My reading of the Christmas story in Luke’s Gospel this year reminded me just how radical we Christians are called to live. The late William Stringfellow (1928-1985) – Episcopalian, attorney and insightful lay theologian – suggested that:
The political nature of our Christmas faith that Stringfellow suggests is not an endorsement of a party, a politician, or nationalism. At its core, in fact, it is the rejection of faction or party, a rejection of the power of the rulers of our age as a source of salvation. We yet live in a limited and broken age. As Christians, however, we see the world through the eyes of Christ Jesus and strive to live – in our limited ways – in the world as Jesus describes in Luke 6:20-26 (during the “Sermon on the Plain”):
Because at Christmas we know God as a displaced infant born in a stable (Luke 2:1-7) who is driven from his homeland by the oppression of a wicked ruler (Matthew 2:13-18), we see the world differently. In the story of that first Christmas, we see that all – like the shepherds – are welcome in the presence of the “Prince of Peace.” In our Christmas celebrations, we have a hint of the joy of sharing and possibility of love. It is limited and it is partial, but it is a beginning. It is a hint of the world as it should be, and a foreshadowing of God’s realm of justice and peace.
It is in Jesus Christ that we personally know the God described in Psalm 146:6-9:
By knowing God in Jesus Christ, we can live into that vision of the world. Each Christmas, we are invited to kneel at the manager and live into the promise of “peace on earth.” In our celebrations, we can learn again to share and to care for others.
I pray that we all have a joy-filled and peaceful Christmas!
The Rt. Rev. Robert L. Fitzpatrick
The Episcopal Diocese of Hawai'i
A Rumination from the Bishop After the Murders in Louisville and Pittsburgh
News this past week brought again word of unthinkable hate:
Murdered for being Americans of African descent in Louisville, Kentucky, on Wednesday, October 24, 2018:
Murdered for being Americans of the Jewish faith in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on Saturday, October 27, 2018:
As I heard the news, I was reading a biography of Martin Niemöller (1892-1984): Then They Came for Me: Martin Niemöller, the Pastor Who Defied the Nazis by Matthew D. Hockenos (New York: Basic Books, 2018). It was jarring reading about the ingrained anti-Semitism in Germany in the years leading to World War II and to the Holocaust. Niemöller, a Lutheran pastor, was a nationalist (a naval officer during World War I) and one who shared the prejudices of his time. The Nazi government took control of the Protestant Church and Niemöller (with others like Karl Barth and Dietrich Bonhoeffer in the Confessing Church) challenged the new "German" Church. Niemöller spent seven years in concentration camps. It would take the years after his release to come to terms with his own complicity and that of the German people with the legalized and initialized hate of Nazi Germany. He is remembered for the quote inscribed on a wall in the Hall of Witness at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, D.C.:
While the evil acts in Louisville and Pittsburgh are those of individuals, they have taken place in a national environment of anger and hate speech. Violence is nurtured in times of hate, division and the objectification of other human beings. Violence against anyone is an act against us all - against you and me. Words of hate directed against any group is a word of hate directed against all of us - against you and me. Words of hate, anger and division build. If they are allowed to become common place, then the acts of the insane and the evil can become acceptable.
In memory of these thirteen souls, we must say "no" to hate and violence. We must hold those accountable who use words of fear and anger. Most importantly, we must search ourselves for our personal pockets of prejudice, fear, anger and self-deception that allow us to turn a blind eye to another's pain or to objectify the other as a non-person - an object and not a human being. We must have true repentance and amendment of life, and then to defy in word and deed by God's grace those who promulgate hate, anger and fear with love, joy and peace.
Prayer for those who died:
Prayer for those who mourn:
Prayer for our Nation:
The Bishop’s Report
to the 50th Annual Meeting of the Convention
of The Episcopal Diocese of Hawaiʻi
View the print version HERE.
BISHOP'S Special Messages
Earlier Special Messages can be found on the archive page HERE.
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