December 23, 2020
Beloved in Christ:
Greetings in the precious name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
Charles Wesley’s hymn, "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” is based on Luke’s account of the angel’s announcement of good news to shepherds— shepherds, who had no formal education or social standing, who were terrified by the appearance of the angel, shepherds who upon receiving the angel’s message went with haste to Bethlehem to see what had taken place.
When they arrived they found Mary, Joseph, and the baby. They made known what was told to them by the angel, and all who heard were amazed. Mary treasured and pondered their words in her heart, and the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God. (Luke 2:16-20)
Due to COVID-19 and other challenges, Christmas celebrations will be different in many ways this year: no big parties, fewer family members at the table, limited travel, different ways of doing Christmas Eve candlelight services. Some have lost family members and/or friends throughout this year.
In “Celebrating in the Pandemic,” Anne Lamott writes: “The meaning of this pandemic is that we are all vulnerable and connected. We are in this together, spanning the globe, Buddhists, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, pagans, Christians, atheists. This is so much bigger than the virus, because love and caring are bigger than anything - even, or especially, suffering.” (Anne Lamott, “Celebrating in the Pandemic,” National Geographic, December 2020, p. 20).
In the midst of all this, angels — messengers of God, continue to descend upon our lives.
I experienced such an event when I was serving a local church and received a call from a parishioner stating there had been a gun accident in their neighborhood. When I arrived at the house of the accident, the husband and son were understandably distraught.
The husband had been getting ready to go hunting and did not realize the gun's safety was not on. It fired accidentally as he was saying goodbye, and his wife was killed on the spot. You can imagine the deep pain and helplessness.
Honestly, I did not know how to simultaneously comfort the grieving husband and teen-aged son. Immediately, a voice whispered to me, “Call one of the saints of the church who is also a trusted leader.” I called this person who worked in the guidance office of the local high school. In minutes, two guidance counselors arrived and began working as a team to help this family.
Recently I was deeply moved by a news story of a Jewish doctor who had treated a COVID-19 patient who was covered with Nazi tattoos.
Naturally, this doctor’s faith and compassion were tested! Though I leave you to reach your own decision on this transformational story, as far as I am concerned, angels of God were silently whispering to Dr. Nichols about what to do and how to respond.
Angels come to us in various forms: as an enemy seeking forgiveness and help, as a child speaking truth, as a person with different skin color or accent from our own, as someone whose theology is diametrically opposed to ours. Are we able to listen to them even though they prick our conscience, disrupt our comfort, or make us afraid?
Beloved in Christ, may we hear again the angel’s message. May our holy listening lead to holy action, so through us or in spite of us, God may be glorified and praised!
Prema joins me in wishing you and your loved ones a Merry Christmas!
In Christ's love,
Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar
God, as the shepherds of old
we make the journey
to see the thing that has taken place
the thing that has been made known to us.
We make haste to find the one
about whom the angels sing —
the one who came
the one who still comes
as good news to
the lonely and the hollow,
the heartbroken and the angry,
the homeless and the hungry,
the poor and the affluent,
the hopeless and the fearful,
all made in your image.
God, like the angel who said,
“Do not be afraid: for see —
I am bringing you good news of great joy,”
like the angel who spoke to shepherds,
let us announce the good news
write it on a card,
email it to a hurting soul,
pray it with a grief-stricken neighbor
sing it into fear,
love it into the unlovely,
like the angel,
let us make it known!
Through the love of God
the grace of Jesus the Christ
and in the power of the Holy Spirit,
so may we hear and tell
what has been made known to us
and sing with the angels,
Glory to God in highest heaven,