Because of the love we have for our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, we tend to romanticize Christmas. Sanitized crèche scenes, cheery Christmas lights, familiar carols, pageants with adorable children and grandchildren, and cards with messages of love abound. Loved ones gather around, and even in when that is not the case, Christmas brings forth memories of times gone by.
But in reality, the world into which Jesus came was harsh. Scripture tells us his birth was among unsanitary animals and shortly thereafter his family had to flee from an unsympathetic king who sought to kill him. The people to whom he first came were under persecution, and times were tough. It was a time of religious turmoil, harsh taxes, unemployment, an uncertain political structure, war and unrest. And yet, when the baby Jesus came into the midst of all that, the Gospels tell us angels came and sang of peace on earth.
Centuries have passed since that time, and the description of the world just given could apply to today as well as the first century. Particularly here in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, the religious turmoil part is most applicable. And yet, that peace on earth and good will to all that the angels sang of still rings in our ears.
As of last Sunday, I have now visited in every one of the congregations of our great diocese, some more than once. In EVERY case, I have found people who, in spite of the harsh realities of the secular world and the tragedy of division that gripped this diocese two years ago, are filled with hope. The love that Mariann and I have found is overwhelming. The tenacity of the people to maintain and build up their churches and to focus on proclaiming the Good News that Jesus brought to this hurting world is heartening. While not ignoring the hurt that exists, we seem intent on focusing instead on the opportunity, potential and peace that life with Jesus Christ as the center brings.
Just as the birth of Jesus was an intrusion into the harsh world of the first century, an intrusion that changed the course of history, so I believe the church today can have the same effect on today's world. For the next couple of years, we here in this diocese will be preparing to welcome the next permanent bishop. But at the same time, we have another task to do. We need to be as the angels of long ago, singing of peace on earth and shinning light down upon all whom we meet, so they can find their way to Jesus. If we stay focused on that, then the darkness of the world will be overcome, and the babe of Bethlehem will reign supreme in our hearts.
As I celebrate the conclusion of my first full year among you, and anticipate the next almost two more years of our time together, I feel very blessed indeed. May all who read this message have a wonderful Christmas, and then may love, hope, and joy abound for us all in the New Year.
Kenneth L. Price Jr.