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As I write this, so many in our churches are talking about how, how, how we can create the kind of Christmas we all want to have in the middle of the pandemic and of all manner of political and societal turbulence. I have to admit that I too long for the kind of Christmas that would allow me, just for a moment, to return to something familiar and comforting, because, well, I need it, I really need it this year.

But then I remember, darn it, that the story of Christmas doesn’t have much in it about returning to a more comfortable and reassuring time. Rather, Jesus’ birth, that occasion that in Luke’s Gospel brought unbridled rejoicing to shepherds who were out sleeping in the fields with their flocks, occurred in a chaotic political and economic time. Jesus’ birth did not provide those same shepherds with warm beds and a comforting meal. Rather, his birth said something powerful to them about their dignity even as they did not have creature comforts.

And so the Christmas story is about the Good News of God coming to the poor, to the oppressed, to captives and to those on society’s margins.  The Christmas story is about God coming to them in the form of God among us, God in the flesh, God as a vulnerable baby born to a peasant couple.

From this, the Christmas story is about God coming to us with a message of love and joy though we are in pandemic, though we are not sure when the pandemic will end, though our political and societal leaders are not all that we would want and though our celebration of Christmas may not look and feel like it has in the past.

I give you two things as Christmas gifts this year, my last Christmas as your Archbishop. 

The first is the image on the Christmas card that I will be sending out this year (included with this post). It will include this message: “Even and especially now, Christmas joy!” My hope is that you and I will receive and take hold of the real joy we are given in our Christmas celebrations this year (without comparing them to Christmases past).

The second gift is this poem by Luci Shaw with whom I worked many years ago. What it describes is the coming of “The One “in the middle of a world (like ours this year) that has need, so much need, of God’s presence.

Winter, and very cold

And the night at

its deepest.  The politicians,

as usual, double-tongued.

The town chaotic, teeming

with strangers.

And tonight, as often

in winter in Bethlehem,

snow is falling.


I always love

how each flake

torn from the sky,

arrives separately,

without sound, almost

unnoticed in

a flurry of others.  How

each one (on a clear

night) lies there glittering

on the swelling breast

of snow, crisp

and intact, as wholly itself

as every radiant star

in a sky sparkling

with galaxies.


How many new

babies tonight

In Judea, coming

like snowflakes?

But plucked,

dazzling, from the

eternal heavens

into time,

tonight is born

The One.


Luci Shaw from Accompanied by Angels: Poems of the Incarnation