Thoughts for the Season
The Light of Christmas
By Peter Preiser
Pastor of Harbor Church
“In the beginning, the Word existed.
In the Word was life, and that life brought light to all humankind.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it. The true light that enlightens every person was coming into the world. To all who receive the light, to all those who believe, is given the right to become children of God. [For] The Word became flesh and lived among us, and we beheld God’s beauty, full of grace and truth.” — The Gospel of John, Chapter 1
The beginning of John’s Gospel captures the essence of the Christmas story without the familiar description of Joseph and Mary in a barn surrounded by animals, shepherds, and wise men. It is stripped down to the essential message — that a God who is transcendent, inapproachable, and mysterious beyond our understanding has reached out and made himself known to us in the person and work of Jesus Christ. The intangible Word has been made real to us through the incarnation. The light of Christmas now shines in our world to push back the darkness. All that we need do is open ourselves up to the illumination that God has provided. We can experience the grace of God’s presence, and we can know truths that transform our lives and bring us peace and hope and joy. As we draw nearer to the light that Christmas brings, may it increasingly shine in all our hearts and spirits and minds each day.
Merry Christmas, and may God bless us, everyone!
A Christmas Reflection
By Eletha Buote-Greig
Vicar of St. Ann’s By-the-Sea
In the world today, where self-interest seems to be the garment of choice to wrap our humanity in, it can be pretty difficult to grasp how our God chose himself to be wrapped in swaddling clothes — and where the garment of choice was total self-giving. Of course, it is this latter truth, this reality, that is the key that enables us to find the pathway into our souls and into the heart of God. But to fully embrace and internalize the meaning of the birth of Christ — the Child born to us — one must pattern his/her life after the life of Christ and consciously move from self-interest to self-giving.
Yes, sometimes it is hard to believe that God loved us so much that he took on the form of a person — but what other form could he take to express that love for us? What other form could he take to express his desire to close the gap that our humanity creates as we express the gift of free will?
I am always deeply moved when I see a picture of Michelangelo’s painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel — where God’s arm and hand and finger are stretched to the limit towards man and where man’s arm, hand and finger are slightly bent so as to avoid closing the gap. I am deeply moved by that painting because I know, as I daily struggle with my own humanity, that I have not stretched myself fully to reach God and yet, I know to the very depth of my soul, that the Child born to us was God’s way of telling us that God would forever continue to reach out and stretch to the limit his welcoming hand to us.
Perhaps this Christmas we can — even for a brief moment — allow God’s fingertip to touch ours so that we might understand and experience why Christ came into this world. Each and every day there are opportunities to move from self-interest to self-giving. Each and every day we can move closer to God – we can reach out and try to touch the fingertip of God.
May the blessing of the birth of Christ bring you peace throughout the year.
Ponder the Promise
By Rev. Joseph Protano
Pastor of St. Andrew
The Jewish believers built the foundation of their faith with their very blood, sweat and tears. The Hebrew Nation received the Promise in revelation. Kept the Promise by prophetic exhortation. Re-established the Promise through divine intervention when it faded and even got lost. And, through it all, managed to pass on the Promise from generation to generation.
The Christian believers accepted the Promise handed on to them and seamlessly continued to build on that foundation with their own blood, sweat and tears. The Promise revealed and the Promise fulfilled are one in the Christian mind and practice.
Jesus among us is the Promised One come to full stature in our time. That awesome sentence professes the truthfulness of what the Christian family accepts, believes and practices now going on for two thousand years.
Advent reminds us all, “Jew and Greek, slave and free” that even the Promise fulfilled needs restating, re-recognition, and re-acceptance lest it fades and possibly is lost. To a distracted Judeo/Christian worldview, the Emmanuel, the God with us, can and often is displaced by a simple candy cane or a partridge in a pear tree!
I appeal to the deep thinkers and the distracted to ponder the Promise this Christmas Day and season. Allow the 5,000 years of believers and revealers who put life and limb on the line, to be the witnesses to the Promise who is Hope and Justice and Love. Share the responsibility of those who await the coming of the Savior and be alert to Him who is already in our midst.
Christmas is more than a word. It is a way of believing and a certain way of living.
Merry Christmas! Happy New Year!
It’s About The Light
By Elliot Taubman
Cantor, Congregation Sons and Daughters of Ruth
Chanukah is the Festival of Lights. It celebrates the short period of peace and freedom the Jews had when they expelled the Syrian Greeks from Jerusalem and before the Romans took over. The legend has it that there was a small vial of oil to light the menorah in the Temple, which had been ransacked by the Greeks, but it lasted eight days. The miracle was that the leaders of the newly independent Israel were willing to light the oil to rededicate the Temple — even though there was no guarantee they would realize that goal.
Aviva Meyer writes in “Americans for Peace Now”: “The story of Chanukah is not about the oil; it’s about the light. Had the Maccabees not taken those first uncertain steps, the light of their faith would not still be visible, more than 2000 years later.And yet, the light of Chanukah is no ordinary light. The light is to inspire us to never give in to darkness and to never give up hope.”
Even though the freedom of Israel only lasted for a short time, it is still remembered. Also remembered is the ancient prayer of “Oseh Shalom,” which translates, “Bring peace to us, to Israel and the entire world.” It is thought to be 3,800 years old. The song is sung joyfully, anticipating peace. Although peace has only had brief patches, we can have some peace here and there.
It’s about the light!
Shalom, Salaam, Pax and Peace.
Chanukah begins at sundown on Sunday, Dec. 22.