The Presiding Bishop's Christmas 1999 Message

December 25, 1999

We move along, through days and years, trying to be faithful. Yet, for all our prayers, our pondering of scripture and our participation in the sacraments and life of the church, in our hearts there is often a still small voice of accusation which judges us continually, and finds us wanting. Incarnation is an assault upon our own spirit of self-judgment, as God's unwavering compassion ruthlessly breaks through all of our defenses. Through Jesus, God entered our narrow, limited world and set us free-- overriding our self-judgment with mercy and assuring us that his grace is always sufficient and his power is made perfect in weakness.

As we approach a new millennium, let us do so with expectance and humility. May we assume an open and welcoming attitude toward God's compassion made flesh and dwelling among us in Jesus. As we receive God's compassion into our hearts they fill and overflow. Compassion thus moves out from God through us: compassion toward one another across all the divisions that plague us as a church and as a nation and subvert all notions of being members one of another for the common good; compassion across cultures and national identities that make us creditors and debtors, rich and poor; compassion for the stranger and the other who is a potential angel of God rather than an enemy; compassion for the earth our home, whose resources we squander and misuse.

A young woman pregnant before her marriage, a rude shed for animals behind an inn and thus God's word of compassion comes among us in the fragile form of a newborn child entrusted to our faltering human care. So it was two thousand years ago, so it is today. Such is God's trust in us. Such is God's hope for us. And, out of his store we are given "grace upon grace."

You come to us, O Christ,
at the turning of the year and the dawn of a new millennium:

You are the Alpha and the Omega
The beginning and the end. All times
and seasons are yours, and in you
all things hold together and are brought to completion.

Draw us by your Spirit into communion
with you and one another and make us and all things
whole and free in the full force
of your deathless love.

Amen.

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