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Upholding the Faith and Order of the Church
Tuesday October 17th 2017

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A Christmas Homily

Adoration_of_the_shepherds_reni“Let us go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” (St. Luke 2:15)

It is Christmas, and once again and these words of the shepherds have become our own. We too journey with them to Bethlehem to celebrate the birth of Jesus once again. Bethlehem is a real place, not some imaginary village. Pilgrims can still visit the holy site today where Jesus was born.

But tonight at Christmas, as every year, Christians around the world make a spiritual pilgrimage, in Scripture, song, and prayer, and we too go to Bethlehem to worship the newborn King. Tonight this church becomes our Bethlehem – the place where God in Christ comes among us once again. Like the shepherds, let us worship and adore him. We have been drawn here, like the shepherds, by the message of the angels – the “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.” (St. Luke 2:10-11)

No matter how many times we make this Christmas pilgrimage, there is always a joyful and wondrous sense about it. The air is filled with joy and magic on Christmas Eve as at no other time of the year. How do we put into words what Christmas means to us? From one year to the next, the meaning of Christmas may change for us as our life changes. The meaning is not the same for a child as for an adult. It is different for an adolescent and a senior citizen. We bring a slightly different perspective each time.

So for some of us this is a happy and joyful Christmas. For others, it is a sad and difficult time. For example, for those of us with family or loved ones serving in the armed forces, Christmas brings a special hope for peace on earth and good will towards all people. For some, this Christmas means the absence of a loved one who has died in the past year, and so there is a degree of sadness and loss. For others again, this Christmas is their first together as a newly married couple or as first time parents, and all the special joys that family and children bring at this time of the year. And so on.

But one thing remains the same, no matter how many times we make our Christmas pilgrimage to Bethlehem: we always find Jesus has come to us as Emmanuel – God with us. We always find that love and peace of God which He gives us in the gift of His only Son. No matter what circumstances in our lives may seek to dampen or darken the light and the joy of this season, we always find renewed hope and encouragement in the birthday of our Savior.

In him, we have the promise of God’s forgiveness and love, God’s grace and deliverance – the gift of new and eternal life in Jesus, who saves us from sin and death.

Yes, the one whose birth we celebrate tonight has lived and died and rose again for us! This is our confidence and our strength. Jesus is our joy, our hope, and our peace. He alone can save us and deliver us from hopelessness and despair. Come to the altar tonight to worship and adore him. Receive him into your heart with joy.

“O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray;
cast out our sin and enter in, be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel.”
Phillips Brooks (1835-1893)

I wish you all a very merry and joyous Christmas!

The Rt. Rev. Jack Iker is the Bishop of Fort Worth, Texas.

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