NATIVITY OF OUR LORD 2021
To the Reverend Clergy and Faithful of the Diocese of the West
Christ is Born! Glorify Him!
O Lord, who has believed our report, and to whom was the arm of the Lord revealed? We proclaimed His presence as a Child, as a Root in a thirsty land. He had no form or glory, and we saw Him; and He had no form or beauty….
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because of which He anointed Me. He sent Me to proclaim good news to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to preach liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind; to declare the acceptable year of the Lord, the day of recompense, and to comfort all who mourn; to give those who mourn in Zion glory instead of ashes, the oil of gladness to those who mourn; the garment of glory instead of a spirit of indifference.” (Isaiah 53:1-2; 61:1-3)
Once again, we gather together at the Cave to wonder at the Mystery of the pre-eternal Son of God coming into creation as a little Child. The earth opened wide its mouth and received the One who filled its darkness with Light. We are called in our celebration to open wide the caves in our hearts. The words of the Prophet Isaiah quoted above are not chanted in the services of the Feast, but they point to the Incarnation. In those words, we ponder two things. The prophet proclaims the coming of the Messiah as a Child, and not only a Child, but a Root planted firmly in the desert. But there is no earthly or human beauty in this Child. Rather, the Messiah comes into the world in a rather matter-of-fact way — by His Mother giving birth. Except for the angels singing to the shepherds, and the wise men being led by a star, nobody knew. Nobody came. That reality is the reality that comes down to us to this day. The Child we proclaim and celebrate today can only be seen by those looking for Him. As we ponder the Cave, the Child, and the miracle of God made man, may we be found looking for Him.
The second reality is the words of the Lord Himself through the Prophet Isaiah. He comes into the world to proclaim good news to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to preach liberty to captives, and sight to the blind and to comfort all who mourn. This season is so difficult in our contemporary culture. Everything has screamed at us for months: “Christmas is coming! Get your shopping done! Be happy! What’s for Christmas dinner?” and on and on. Yet this season is also when suicides spike, when broken families have no one to gather with, “seasonal affective disorder” afflicts many people, and when we are still dealing with COVID and threats of lockdowns and quarantines. There are people hospitalized, people dying, people lonely, not to mention those hungry, homeless and destitute. Some just want to “go home for Christmas.” Some are afraid to die. Some are afraid to open their own “caves” to the Child.
But the miracle is two-fold. The Child comes into the world for the person that is poor, brokenhearted, captive, blind, and mourning. That person, of course, is me. Each of us has brokenness in our lives that can only be healed by the Child being born in us and growing within us. But He did not just come “for” each of us; He came to “become” us. We can turn to Him in our loneliness and destitute condition because He is already there waiting for us, broken, lonely and destitute Himself. But when we enter into the Child who has no form or beauty, we ourselves are clothed with form and beauty!
My beloved flock, may the Child come into the world this day heal every brokenness, cure every ill, and give the form and beauty of God Himself to all who come to worship Him in this broken world. May the hope given to us this day never fade away no matter the difficulties facing us. May the Gift that is placed in our hands this day always be received as the only gift that matters.
Christ is Born! Glorify Him!
In the new-born Child,
Archbishop of San Francisco and the West