From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson's Christmas Message

From News News <NEWS@ELCA.ORG>
Date Thu, 20 Dec 2001 11:40:33 -0600


December 20, 2001


I greet you after just returning from New York City. I know that I will
hear Luke's Gospel and sing familiar Christmas carols differently this
year because of my experience.

Oh, how silent are the nights for those who still mourn the deaths of
loved ones on September 11. We stood in silence at Ground Zero, gazing
upon the pictures of those who died, remembering that behind each name
is a unique life story. The flags of the more than 30 nations from which
those who died had come reminded us that in homes across the world not
all is calm, not all is bright. For those too burdened with grief to
sing, we will join the heavenly hosts singing, "Alleluia! Christ the
Savior is born, Christ the Savior is born."

When I hear the angel's announcement, "Do not be afraid, for, see, I am
bringing you good news of great joy," I will remember Felipe, burned
over much of his body in that towering inferno. Sunday was Felipe's
first Sunday in worship as he continues the long path of healing. He sat
in the front pew as his daughter was one of 32 baptisms that morning at
Transfiguration Lutheran Church in the Bronx.

.Thirty-two baptized -- all ages, different languages, many cultures --
one bathed in God's grace, joined to the Body of the crucified and risen
Christ. Yes, there is reason to join the heavenly host praising God and
"Glory to God in the highest."

When I hear of the shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night, I
will think of Eddie, a steel worker I met at Ground Zero. "Pray for me,
Reverend," Eddie asked; "I have volunteered to work Christmas Eve and
Christmas Day at the site. We need to keep working until we are sure we
have found all the bodies we possibly can." Eddie, tending the dead by
night and day, for you, too, a Savior is born who is Christ the Lord.

This Christmas season I will do more pondering with Mary than singing
joyful songs with the angel choir. Pondering the refugees who are
fleeing war-torn villages in Afghanistan, the Middle East, Sudan -- those
for whom there is no peace on earth. I will be thinking of the millions
infected with AIDS in Africa, the thousands in our country waiting at
churches for groceries, shelter, and a meal. Yes, for each one God has
come to earth -- Emmanuel -- meeting us in Jesus precisely in our
humanness that we might know the depth of God's love.

Perhaps most fitting for this Christmas is the third stanza of "It Came
Upon the Midnight Clear":

     And you, beneath life's crushing load,
     Whose forms are bending low,
     Who toil along the climbing way
     With painful steps and slow:
     Look now, for glad and golden hours
     Come swiftly on the wing;
     Oh, rest beside the weary road
     And hear the angels sing!

I pray that you might have a meaningful and blessed Christmas.

The Rev. Mark Hanson
Presiding Bishop
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or NEWS@ELCA.ORG

Browse month . . . Browse month (sort by Source) . . . Advanced Search & Browse . . . WFN Home