Bishop's Christmas Message 2018
The Bishop's Letter to the Diocese of Hawai'i
My dearest Sisters and Brothers in Christ Jesus,
There is a meme floating about the internet with variations of the following theme:

Want to keep the Christ in Christmas,
Feed the hungry,
Welcome the stranger,
Comfort the afflicted,
Care for the outcast,
Forgive your enemies,
And share with all love, joy, and peace.
The words are often shared with a picture of a Nativity scene or an icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary. 
The point is to debunk both the foolhardy notion that there is a “war on Christmas” in 21 st century America and the materialistic focus of the season. It is a call back to the teaching and very person of Jesus Christ, the Incarnate One. 
My reading of the Christmas story in Luke’s Gospel this year reminded me just how radical we Christians are called to live. The late William Stringfellow (1928-1985) – Episcopalian, attorney and insightful lay theologian – suggested that:
[T]he manger scene itself is a political portrait of the whole creation restored in the dominion of Jesus Christ in which every creature, every tongue and tribe, every rule and authority, every nation and principality is reconciled in homage to the Word of God incarnate. Amid portents and events such as these, commemorated customarily in the church, the watchword of Christians – “peace on earth” – is not a sentimental adage but a political utterance and an eschatological proclamation, indeed, a preview and precursor of the Second Coming of Christ the Lord, which exposes the sham and spoils the power of the rulers of the age. [William Stringfellow: Essential Writings (in the Modern Spiritual Masters Series), edited by Bill Wylie-Kellerman (Orbis Press, 2013), pages 52-52]
The political nature of our Christmas faith that Stringfellow suggests is not an endorsement of a party, a politician, or nationalism. At its core, in fact, it is the rejection of faction or party, a rejection of the power of the rulers of our age as a source of salvation. We yet live in a limited and broken age. As Christians, however, we see the world through the eyes of Christ Jesus and strive to live – in our limited ways – in the world as Jesus describes in Luke 6:20-26 (during the “Sermon on the Plain”):
Jesus raised his eyes to his disciples and said:
“Happy are you who are poor, because God’s kingdom is yours.
Happy are you who hunger now, because you will be satisfied.
Happy are you who weep now, because you will laugh.
Happy are you when people hate you, reject you, insult you, and condemn your name as evil because of the Human One. Rejoice when that happens! Leap for joy because you have a great reward in heaven. Their ancestors did the same things to the prophets.
But how terrible for you who are rich, because you have already received your comfort.
How terrible for you who have plenty now, because you will be hungry.
How terrible for you who laugh now, because you will mourn and weep.
How terrible for you when all speak well of you. Their ancestors did the same things to the false prophets”.
Because at Christmas we know God as a displaced infant born in a stable (Luke 2:1-7) who is driven from his homeland by the oppression of a wicked ruler (Matthew 2:13-18), we see the world differently. In the story of that first Christmas, we see that all – like the shepherds – are welcome in the presence of the “Prince of Peace.” In our Christmas celebrations, we have a hint of the joy of sharing and possibility of love. It is limited and it is partial, but it is a beginning. It is a hint of the world as it should be, and a foreshadowing of God’s realm of justice and peace.
It is in Jesus Christ that we personally know the God described in Psalm 146:6-9: 
God: the maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, God: who is faithful forever, who gives justice to people who are oppressed, who gives bread to people who are starving! The LORD: who frees prisoners. The LORD: who makes the blind see. The LORD: who straightens up those who are bent low. The LORD: who loves the righteous. The LORD: who protects immigrants, who helps orphans and widows, but who makes the way of the wicked twist and turn!
By knowing God in Jesus Christ, we can live into that vision of the world. Each Christmas, we are invited to kneel at the manager and live into the promise of “peace on earth.” In our celebrations, we can learn again to share and to care for others.   
I pray that we all have a joy-filled and peaceful Christmas! 
Mele Kalikimaka!


The Rt. Rev. Robert L. Fitzpatrick
Bishop Diocesan
The Episcopal Diocese of Hawai'i
The Episcopal Diocese of Hawai'i |