Dear Friends in Christ,

I have a confession: I am the Grinch. I am Scrooge. I am the grumpy uncle wading through the Christmas displays just wishing it would all end.

I start feeling this way when they start piping holiday music through the sound systems in stores and elevators. I don't get over it until after New Year's.

Peace on earth? Grrr. Good will? Bah. Merry and Happy? Harrumph.

I have never known what to make of the kindness of my wife, how she makes everything in the house look beautiful and makes sure everyone we know receives something, a gift, a card, some small blessing, in the name of Jesus the Child Christ. I have never known what to make of the excitement of my son, who (thankfully) takes after his mother and has always been boisterous and excited and hysterically funny as we approach The Day.

The thought of putting something under the tree for someone else stops me in my tracks. When I try to pick out gifts, I freeze. All I can say in my defense is that I could be worse. I know other people who are worse. Maybe. Which, when you think of it, is not much of a defense. (By the way: they're all guys.)

And yet, the Manger bowls me over. The cry of the Baby rocks my world. I can close my eyes and see it all, as if it were part of my family album: the holy couple knocking on the door of the inn, shunted off to the stable, the baby born in the straw, the animals, the shepherds, the glory of the angels. I have read hundreds of pages of critical commentaries on the story in Saint Luke's Gospel, telling me the ways this is all myth. I don't care. I believe every word. Each passing year it all becomes more real to me. Every year as I sing the hymns and carols of the midnight Mass, I cry like a baby.

So, sooner or later, what happened to Scrooge and to the Grinch starts to happen to me. Most years, I manage to hide it pretty well, and nobody is the wiser. But other years, my joy and gratitude just start to pour out.

And, yes, I feel it happening to me now. I don't want to admit it. But the Christ Child has a life of His Own, and He will be born even in as dark a stable as that of my own heart. The Baby is coming early this year. I suppose I will just have to let Him have His way, maybe even in time for me to do a little shopping.

And I know He will have His way with you as well. Whatever you're afraid of in your own life or soul, just remember: He's been born in darker places. Give Him so much as a square inch of your shadows, and He will fill you with His light.

So Peace and Good Will to you. Merry and Happy to you. And may the tears you shed as you sing the carols water the seeds of His joy growing in you for the rest of your life.

Gratefully your Bishop,