Bishop Brian Cole reminds us that God is always present and with us, and wishes all a Merry Christmas.
– Hi, I’m Bishop Brian. Today I want to read to you a very brief portion of the Christmas story from the gospel of Luke.
“In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified, but the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid for see I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people. To you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you, you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.'”
I love the fact that the angel of the Lord, before the angel can say a good word, a piece of good news, is able to acknowledge that the shepherds are terrified and so begins by saying, “Do not be afraid.” We are living in a time when we continue to hear the good news of God, because the good news of God in that story continues to be true in our land. But before we speak that word of good news this year, it would be helpful for all of us to pay attention to who’s in front of us. And how are they doing? Are they afraid, are they anxious? Are they fearful? And can we notice that? And can we acknowledge that before we jump to the rest of the story?
There is good news, God is with us, but if we say that good word too soon and ignore who’s in front of us and what they’re feeling, what they’re experiencing, it’s like we haven’t even seen them or noticed them. The angel of the Lord showed up and shone and made a great light, a light of glory, a light of hope, but again, a light that would have been disconcerting. What is this light in this dark night? So the shepherds had every right to be terrified. And the angel begins by saying, “I want to tell you something, but first, don’t be afraid, cause I want you to be able to hear what I’m going to say next.”
My friends, my brothers and sisters, we are living in a time when the church continues to be a people with good news, the best news, but we live in a land, in a time where there are many things that cause us to be anxious, the economy, COVID, political unrest, just a deep sense of uncertainty. So before we rush to the rest of the story, let us pay attention to neighbor and friend, stranger and kin, all those around us, all those in front of us, and let us see them and see how are they doing and ask, “How are you doing?” And listen to them, listen to their story before we share our story, which is the story, the story of good news, the story of God showing up in a fragile and unlikely place in the world, God taking on flesh, becoming incarnate, inhabiting with us this world with its joy and its pain, its hope and its struggle. And God remains with us in this time. Whether we are afraid, whether we are filled with joy and hope and love and mercy and possibility, or with deep uncertainty, God is with us. God is present.
So before you speak that word of good news, notice who’s in front of you. Notice how they’re doing and speak to them first. Acknowledge what is before them, before we share the rest of the story. It is an honor and joy to serve with you in the Diocese of East Tennessee, my prayers and Susan’s prayers are with you as we continue to work together as we move towards 2022, and the Diocese is a convention where together we will ask for God’s help to be humble and honest and hopeful. Merry Christmas.