December 21, 2015,

Dear Friends and Family of the Diocese of Eau Claire,

In the midst of the stress of the Christmas rush to decorate, buy presents, and prepare food, there is the phrase from Luke’s Gospel, “Mary pondered these things.” Perhaps Christmas more than anything is about pondering—a pondering of faith. Luke begins his story with the birth of John the Baptist. Then the Evangelist moves to the conception and birth of Jesus. For every adult character, Zechariah, Elizabeth, Mary, and Joseph, there is a walk of faith. Things that aren’t supposed to happen are occurring. As God spoke to create the world, he now speaks and new human lives emerge. It isn’t supposed to be, but it is. It is marvelous to behold.

When December 25th concludes, most adults breathe a sigh of relief. It is time to rest and relax. The Christmas holiday is over. With Luke’s Gospel the Christmas story is only the beginning. The journey of faith continues. Jesus gathers his disciples. He shares words of wisdom and speaks with an authority that challenges traditional teachings. People witness miracles that testify to Jesus’ power. Those who know him well come to a radical conclusion. He is the Christ, the Anointed One, He is the Son of God.

For those who hear him, Jesus brings forth two reactions. One group is filled with joy. These people find themselves confessing their sins, and discovering a relationship with God that transforms them into new people. A second group also emerges. These people hold power. They like to control others. Jesus’ message threatens them, so they plot to kill the messenger.

Jesus is arrested, convicted, and crucified. For the second group things don’t work out as planned. For the first group, his followers, Jesus’ death on the Cross means he has taken upon himself the sins of the world. We can now confess our sins, be forgiven, and move forward with God. This would seem enough, but then is the great surprise. Jesus, who is supposed to be dead, appears before the disciples and many others. It makes no sense but is. In many ways, Jesus has moved us through the cherubim and seraphim with their flaming swords back into the Garden of Eden to the Tree of Life. Yes, eternal life is ours.

In some ways this is too much to behold. The story is about our receiving a multitude of gifts. Still, the gifts don’t make sense unless we first connect with God. Faith is the connector. A good beginning is to return to Mary’s phrase and “ponder these things.” Through faith we can sort out what seems overwhelming. I wish you great joy in exploring the mysteries of Christmas and may you move forward to celebrate the rest of the story! With my love and best wishes, I am,

Your brother in Christ,