The Rector and Bishop’s Christmas Message

December 24, 2021

Dear Friends and Family of the Diocese of Eau Claire, As we conclude the Advent Season and celebrate the joy of Christmas, I offer an insight. In our calendar Advent precedes Christmas, but the historical progression is one in which Advent, for the most part follows Christmas. Why do I say this? In most years the Gospel readings of the first three Advent Sundays look to the end of the age and John the Baptist. The challenge of the Baptist is to prepare us for the second coming of Jesus. This time he will come as an adult, and John wants us to recognize him. This understanding of the second coming of Jesus does not diminish the importance of his first coming—the Christmas event. While John’s and Jesus’ teachings prepare us for Jesus’ second coming, the first coming sets in motion God’s great experiment. This is summed up in the word Emmanuel or “God is with us.” This babe is born of Mary and placed in a manger inside the cave at Bethlehem. The Gospel, the Good News begins here.

The Good News is that God the Son is going to be one of us. He is fully human and fully divine. By teaching, preaching, action, and most importantly by his own presence we are given a model on how to live. At times the message goes against what we believe is our human nature. We are to do our best to love and pray for those who might hate us. We are to share money and possessions only to become richer because of what we have given away. We are to treat others with respect not only by talking this way but by backing up talk with acts of caring. In so doing we respect our selves which is a corollary of Jesus’ statement that we are to love God and our neighbors as we love ourselves. Frequently our lack of love for God or neighbor comes from not loving ourselves. For me, Christmas is summed up by two words: grace and blessing. Grace means favor. God in becoming one of us favors us in our humanity. It means God in all three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is watching, guiding, and caring for us. He is constantly reaching out. If we will listen and respond to this calling our lives can be transformed in incredible ways.

The second word “blessing” means happy. By responding to God’s grace or favor a joy fills our hearts that surpasses human understanding. In my own life I have had times when I feel so blessed that it hurts! It is so wonderful that I ask, “Lord please stop so I can catch my breath!” A wonderful aspect of the Christmas season is that grace and blessing are not just given by God to each of us alone. Like the shepherds who ran to Bethlehem after receiving grace and blessing through the Angels, we are urged to share grace and blessedness with others. You might call it a wonderful awareness that can’t be suppressed! It is incredible news; it is Good News! It’s the Gospel! May the joy of Christmas fill your hearts this year! May God guide your heart and mind to prepare for the second coming our Lord, Jesus! My wife, May Ruth, and I extend our love to all of you—our beloved parish family and friends! I remain, Your brother in Christ, W. Jay Lambert Rector of St. Philip’s