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

Can Christmas Be Saved?

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

In this time of economic turmoil, where countless people are frightened as they watch their life savings, children's college funds, and retirement accounts evaporate into thin air as the stock market continues to dive ever lower, not knowing how they are going to make ends meet, the "Spirit of Christmas" seems to have taken a huge hit. For many, the thought of Christmas shopping for friends and loved is daunting and depressing. As more and more of the world's financial giants come tumbling to their knees taking millions with them, the unemployment lines continue to grow. Countless homes have been repossessed. Credit card debt is skyrocketing out of control with people desperately trying to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads, not to mention pay the heating bill and the never ending rise in medical costs. For these and so many others here in the United States as well as around the world -- the prospects of a "Merry Christmas" are questionable at best. Given the current state of affairs, one might ask, "Can Christmas be saved, or should we cancel it this year and try again next year, hoping and praying that the economy improves?"

The answer to this question depends on what Christmas means to you. What is Christmas really all about? For many in today's society, especially in the market place, Christmas is all about business - BIG BUSINESS!! Whether a store keeps its doors open or not often depends on how successful the Christmas season is. Much of the world's economy, especially in the United States has become dependent on the hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars of STUFF that is bought and sold during the Christmas season. We as a society have bought into it. We have been brainwashed into believing that buying and giving STUFF is what you do at Christmas. It is what brings fulfillment, joy and happiness. If you truly love someone, you must give them the latest and greatest expensive STUFF. That is what all the advertisers tell us day in and day out. Why else would anyone in their right mind, get up before dawn and go stand in line outside in the freezing cold waiting for the mall to open its doors on Black Friday so they can race in with hundreds of others and fight over the blue light specials.

I can only imagine what God the Father must be thinking as He looks at what we have turned Christmas into - "This is how they celebrate my Son's birth?" I'm afraid to think of how many adults and children alike don't even know that Jesus has anything to do with Christmas. With the ever growing public acceptance of the politically correct "Happy Holidays" -vs- "Merry Christmas," connecting Jesus' birth with the celebration of Christmas is becoming more remote.

Can Christmas be saved? If a "successful" Christmas is dependent upon what happens on Wall Street or what store-bought gifts you find under the Christmas tree, I'm not sure. While no doubt the current economic state may very well ruin Christmas for many - for others it may be the very thing needed to not only save Christmas, but to make this the most Merry Christmas in a long time. Often it is when our world is turned upside down, when things are totally beyond our control, when we don't know where to turn or what to do, that we finally invite Christ into our lives in ways that we often don't when everything is going well from the world's standpoint.

Christmas is all about being with and loved by God, through His Son, Jesus Christ. It is at Christmas that we celebrate the incarnation of God, in the birth of Jesus Christ. It was on that very first Christmas, over 2000 years ago, that God came into the world in a new and mighty way, taking our humanity upon Himself, born of the Virgin Mary, changing the world forever. It was on that Holy Night, that an angel of the Lord appeared to shepherds in the field saying, "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..." (Luke 2:10-11).

In one sense, the advertisers have it right - Christmas is about giving and receiving gifts, but not in the way that they would have us believe. God started the tradition of gift giving on that very first Christmas, by giving the world His Son - the ultimate gift of His love. John, in his Gospel, reminds us, "For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16) The greatest, most precious gift anyone can give or receive this Christmas is the gift of God's love, made known in and through Jesus Christ, by the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, shared and received by faith. It is available to all, regardless of one's gender, ethnic background, economic or social status. There is no greater gift in all of creation. It is priceless. The only obstacle to the sharing or receiving of God's love is our self. Jesus said, "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you." (Mathew 7:7). If you have not yet discovered this -- the greatest Christmas gift of all time, what are you waiting for? I invite you this Christmas to seek and be open to the timeless, life transforming gift of Christ's love, and then to share it with others. It will make all the difference in your life and theirs. As you celebrate Christmas this year, may Jesus be at the center of your celebration. In so doing, not only will Christmas be saved, but so will you!

Merry Christmas!
+Bill

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