Christmas message from the Most Reverend Frank T. Griswold, III

November 19, 1998

"Let the Son of God grow in you, for he is formed in you. Let him become very great-immense -- in you… and may he become to you a great smile and exaltation and perfect joy which no one can take from you." These words from a 12th century abbot, Isaac de l'Etoile, invite us to reflect again on what we can only dimly comprehend because of its immensity, the mystery, the truth too large for our hearts and minds to contain: Incarnation.

When God speaks with the full force of God's eternal and unbounded love for the whole creation, the word spoken overleaps the boundaries of speech and becomes event. "The Word became flesh and lived among us," declares the Gospel of John. And in virtue of Christ's death and resurrection, what happened two thousand years ago continues to unfold in the lives of those who have been baptized into Christ's body. Through the ceaseless motion of the Holy Spirit, the Word who is Christ is spoken into flesh and blood in us, and our lives become the medium, the stuff, of divine self-disclosure.

"It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me" (Gal 2:20). Paul's bold assertion is a truth each one of us must make our own as it works its way into the fabric of our lives through the ebb and flow of events and circumstances, and demands and decisions which constitute our existence and relationships. 

There is nothing remote or abstract about incarnation, nor does God in Christ wait for us to achieve some pristine state before declaring us home to his fullness and "grace upon grace." For as the risen One said to Paul, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Cor 12:9). 

As we celebrate Christ's birth, may we both personally and as a community of faith welcome the One who so profoundly welcomes us by sharing his life and his love, and proclaims week by week, "This is my body; this is my blood given and shed for you: eat and drink. Live in me as I live and love in you and through you that all may be one and all things made new." And may Christ so grow and be formed in us all that he becomes a great smile and exaltation and perfect joy.

A blessed Christmas to you all.

The Most Reverend Frank T. Griswold
XXV Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church, USA