Merry Christmas!

By Fr. Lawrence Bausch and Bishop Jack Iker (2015):

When Christians began to celebrate the birth of Jesus near the end of December, we were partying alongside an already festive pagan culture. 

Many peoples throughout the ancient world were accustomed to celebrating the “birth of the sun” at the winter solstice and the yearly promise of the returning of light was anticipated on the darkest day of the year in a kind of wild hopefulness. This feast was celebrated with such customs as the exchanging of gifts, the freeing of servants, and the closing of schools, with much merrymaking.

In many ways, Christians today are in a similar situation; celebrating the birth of Jesus in the midst of a culture which has adopted our religious holy day and turned it into a festive “holiday season” during which a spirit of “peace and good will” is extended to all, with the conventions of gift giving, time off from work and school; with much merry-making. 

What is the difference between the meaning of Christmas and the time-honored values of hope for the future, expressions of kindness, and commitment to relieve the hardships of others? Perhaps the best way to highlight the difference is to hear again the angel’s words as recalled in St. Luke’s Gospel: “I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11)

We Christians celebrate not merely the promises of light which this world extends (and takes away), nor merely our highest and most unselfish intentions (which do not remain consistent), but the arrival and promised help of a Savior who offers to redeem us from our limitations and open to us the place of everlasting light:

Mild He lays His glory by, 
born that we no more may die,
born to raise us from the earth,
born to give us second birth.
Risen with healing in His wings,
Light and life to all He brings,
Hail the Son of Righteousness! 
Hail, the heaven-born Prince of Peace!

(Hymn #87, 1982 Hymnal, verse 3)

As we see increasing animosity towards traditional Christian teaching and practice, may we retain our focus on Christ, first and foremost. And, may we strive to be joyful witnesses to the Gospel of Salvation in Christ for the sake of those we know who have not yet received Him.


In a wonderful Prayer Book collect, we acknowledge before God that “we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves.” This, in a nutshell, is the human condition – we need God’s help. We cannot save ourselves, much less any one else! We cannot save our family or loved ones – try as we might. 

We cannot save the world about us or even our church – though we may wish we could. We need a Savior to deliver us from sin and death, for without His divine assistance, we are bound by our faults, our failures, and our mortality. Without His grace, we are hopeless and are headed to eternal separation from Him.

The good news of Christmas speaks directly to this dilemma. God has provided a Savior for us – Jesus Christ the Redeemer! He alone has the power to save us and help us, heal us, and deliver us. This is the joyful proclamation of the Christ-Mass that goes out to all people, for all time – the message of an angel: “I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people: for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11)

This is what gladdens our hearts and lifts our spirits at this special time of the year. This is what gives us hope for the future. God’s love has acted to save us and redeem us, and to give us the gift of eternal life with Him. Whatever our discouragements and fears, this is the message that gives us hope and promise for the days ahead. 

This is the Light that shines upon us in our moments of darkness.

Christmas is not about what we can do - or should do - or even want to do. Christmas is about what God has done and continues to do, in His saving love for us. It is not something we deserve, nor is it anything we can make happen. It is pure gift – pure grace – pure love! We can only receive it with a thankful heart; it is deliverance from bondage and darkness and death, for all eternity.

St. Augustine of Hippo spoke of this marvelous Christmas gift when he wrote to his diocese some 1600 years ago: “God loves each one of us as if there were only one of us to love!” He loves each one of us as He loves His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ.
He loves you as much now, as He ever will!

Merry Christmas, dear people of faith - God loves you!

Forward in Christ

Proclaiming the Faith and Order of the Church, given to us by Christ.