Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Once again, we gather at the manger to ponder the mystery of the Incarnation, worship the Christ Child and regain our bearings in a world seemingly gone crazy. When we look at the faces of others who also have come to the manger, however, we make a startling discovery. The very people with whom we disagree, and probably all too often talk about in disparaging ways, are right by our side also celebrating the birth of the Son of God.
Even in the midst of this holy moment, we may well find ourselves inching away from them, wondering why in heaven’s name they have intruded. Ironically, they’re probably wondering the same thing about us. And yet for all of us, it should be a powerful reminder – and perhaps even a challenge – that we share much more in Christ than the differences that we claim are so significant.
I have come to realize that it is not enough merely to gather at the manger, barely acknowledging those with whom we are so angry given all that has transpired in our midst during recent months. This year, every one of us needs to feel compelled to kneel at the manger. In awe and respect for the Christ Child, to be sure. But also as a sign that we acknowledge we need to repent, hard as that may be to admit. Repent of our arrogance. Repent of our judgmental pronouncements. Repent of our hearts that have been hardened into hearts of war. Repent of our role in breaking the Body of Christ.
We cannot wait any longer to seek forgiveness and to call out to the Holy Spirit to repair what we have torn asunder. Otherwise, our proclamations of Good News of a Great Joy will ring more and more hollow and the Jesus whose birth we celebrate will seem more and more like just a quaint cherished tradition.
My Christmas prayer is that the gift of the Christ Child will take root in your heart, as well as in the hearts of all in the Body of Christ, in such a transformative way that when others see how it brings healing, reconciliation and new life they will shout, “I want to be in relationship with that baby in the manger, too!
May God abundantly bless you and yours this Christmas season.
Grace and peace,
Gary E. Mueller