Episcopal Diocese of Albany, NY
Business Office: 68 South Swan Street - Albany, NY 12210 - (518) 465-4737
Christ the King Spiritual Life Center: 575 Burton Road - Greenwich, NY 12834 - (518) 692-9550

Bishop Love's Christmas Message 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Fifteen years ago, Karen and I received the SECOND best Christmas present we could ever have imagined or hoped for – our daughter Catie. Karen was several weeks overdue. I remember telling her you can have this child anytime except Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, as if I had any control over the matter. It was my first Christmas at St. Mary’s, my first Christmas as a priest. There was so much to do and I wanted everything to be just right. I was excited and anxious for the birth of our child, but just not on Christmas. It was a little after 10:00 o’clock the night of December 23rd. I had just crawled in bed, when Karen broke the news – “I think I’m going into labor.” After calling the Hospital and being told it was too soon to come in, I threw on some clothes and made a mad dash next door to the Church to finish setting up everything for the Christmas Eve Service, not knowing whether I would be back or whether Bishop Ball would take the service, as he had graciously volunteered to do.

To make a long story short, God had a far better plan than I could ever have imagined. Catie was born Christmas Eve morning, allowing me to be at the hospital for her birth and at St. Mary’s later that night for the Christmas Eve Service. By the time the service started I had been up for over 38 hours. I was exhausted, but it was a wonderful peace-filled exhaustion. As I look back at that first Christmas Eve at St. Mary’s, nothing could have made it any more special. Having just witnessed the birth of my daughter Catie, with an overwhelming sense of love and joy flowing from my heart, Christmas came alive for me in ways that I had never experienced before. There was a sense of connection with Mary and Joseph and what it must have been like for them that very first Christmas – the exhaustion they felt after their long journey, the anxiousness of not knowing where they would stay, and finally the overwhelming sense of God’s love and peace, the joy and excitement and sense of awe and wonder they felt as they cradled the Christ Child in their arms. There in their very midst was the Son of God, Jesus, the Messiah, Emmanuel (God with us), The Prince of Peace, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, The Alpha and the Omega, the Savior of the world.

It was that first Christmas, in a small stable, in Bethlehem, that God, through a young woman named Mary, gave the world the FIRST and GREATEST Christmas present of all time – His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. As we go to church Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and as we gather around our Christmas trees this year and every year, may we never forget or lose sight of who and what it is we celebrate. May our hearts and minds be open to hear the words spoken so long ago by the Angel of the Lord, as he appeared that Holy Night, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:10-12).

May our hearts leap with joy as we join the great company of heavenly host, singing with all our might – “Glory to God in the highest!” May we, like the shepherds, go to the Lord to discover for ourselves the truth of that which we have been told and then go out into the world, boldly proclaiming the truth and reality of that which we have experienced; sharing the love and Good News of Christ with all that we meet.

Tragically this year, as with every year, countless people will go heavily into debt, maxing out credit cards, buying stuff to give to others, in hope of bringing happiness and fulfillment, filling that void in their life and that of those they are giving to, while failing to give and be open to the most important gift of all. Of all the gifts you can receive or give to your family, friends and loved ones this Christmas, the greatest and most important of all, is God’s love. Toys, clothes, games, jewels, even the latest and greatest electronic gadgets, as wonderful and enjoyable as they all may be, ultimately will grow old and fail. Christ’s love never grows old; it never fails; it never runs out. It is all powerful, everlasting, unconditional, life transforming, eternal life giving. God’s love is the most precious and priceless gift anyone can give or receive. If it is not already on the TOP of your Christmas list, write it in. Christmas without the love of Christ, is not Christmas.

The way we share Christ’s love to others is by truly loving one another; by forgiving and asking for forgiveness from one another; by speaking words of kindness rather than words of anger, criticism, jealousy, or rudeness; by treating one another with dignity and respect, recognizing that we are all created in God’s image and likeness; by giving of ourselves, our time, our talent and our treasure, especially in times of need; by being a friend; by listening and praying; by sharing our faith; by inviting the un-churched to come to Church; by sharing God’s Word; by reassuring one another of God’s love and mercy and grace through sharing of the Gospel.

May the love and light of Christ bless each of you this Christmas and may His light shine forth in you and through you as you share His love joyfully and abundantly with everyone on your gift list and beyond. Merry Christmas!

In Christ’s Love,
Bill

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