In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid; for see – I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people' – Luke 2: 8-10 (NRSV)
Today I am praying for the families and people who call Indiana their home. I will not stop at the borders of Indiana or the names of my family or your church. I will pray for the whole world giving thanks for a God of love who still sends angels with messages of assurance amidst uncertainty and fear.
I am glad that Christmas is coming.
What is the message for the church and for you and me when the angel promises; "Do not be afraid; for see, I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people?"
While I was reading an advent devotional, with my wife, the question was raised; "What would be Good News for all the people? Our emphasis was on "all" because good news of great magnitude could come as a blessing for many and yet still not include all.
I serve as chairperson of the United Methodist Global AIDS Fund. A promising vaccination to treat AIDS may be on the horizon. While this is good news for thousands of people living with HIV and AIDS, it is not the good news those suffering with cancer or those losing children to malaria are awaiting.
If we could end hunger in 2017, it would be good news for millions of people who live daily with too little to eat and thousands of volunteers who give much of their time to feeding the hungry and ending food insecurity. Good news, yes, but not the good news needed for the 244 million people seeking refuge due to war and the daily threat of violence. Their prayer is for safety and sanctuary.
We are the bearers of the Good News delivered to us described as "joy for all the people." We are the harbingers of hope, called to sing Christmas carols and carry the torch of truth that God has come to be with us as "Emmanuel." Good news for all the people, this is our charge.
So much of what we see happening in recent days is not good news. On November 18, just ten days after the election, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported more than 867 incidents of hateful harassment. The same report indicated that the results of the election are having a profoundly negative effect on many schools and students.
The reality of a divided nation, where race, religion, gender, privilege, sexual orientation, or country of origin represent barriers to the beloved community; can not and should not be explained away as simply a result of the recent election of President-elect Donald Trump.
For years, the rhetoric and reality have been too often characterized by what Pope Francis calls, "the virus of polarization."
My Christmas prayer is that followers of the Christ Child will raise the bar when it comes to the pursuit of justice and human dignity for "all" people.
Let us not hesitate to love as Jesus loved.
Welcome the sojourner, provide safety for the vulnerable, and denounce hatred in all of its expressions. May we without pause speak loudly with compassion and clearly in pursuit of equality.
If division and fear are the new norms, then let us be abnormal and audacious as we celebrate the Christmas story as God who comes on a rescue mission as the child in a manger.
Have a Blessed Christmas,
Bishop Julius Calvin Trimble