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Grace Episcopal Church Christmas Letter

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Grace Episcopal Church

                                                                                                                                       Christmas 2014

O, friends and family of Grace,

It is Advent, and we are waiting. Three Sundays ago, The Rev. Katheryn King encouraged us to be impatient, to long for the coming of Christ. As I prepare for the coming services and sermons, I am reminded of the promises of God in the prophets and Gospels.  I long for the Wonderful Counselor, the Prince of Peace, the God Emmanuel – God with us, who comes at Christmas. I long to see the Day of the Lord when all things are reconciled to him, so I lean into the prophets and face a choice.

We have had a darker Advent in 2014.  We are facing news of racial tension, wars, violence, victimization, and disease. Like the first chapters of Luke, we see people tossed around by capricious and controlling acts of governments around the world. We face our own sins as a nation, seeing again our reaction to violence with more violence and wonder how we can justify or atone.  Our family and maybe yours has faced losses and death. Many of us carry into this season of bright lights and shiny wrappings buried griefs and barely hidden sufferings.  Where is God in all this darkness?

Of course, there is also other news. Our economy is starting to recover, oil prices are providing relief for all of us, and at least we are admitting our past sins and seeking atonement, maybe. With our deaths and struggles, we have also had births and baptisms, weddings and celebrations, growth and wonder.  Our families may be struggling, but we are struggling together. We are taking up our faith in worship, study, and service. We have been waiting and welcoming Christ among us.

Yet here in our waiting we all face the choice of Isaiah 61: do we proclaim the day of the Lord’s favor or the Lord’s vengeance? As we read these texts, we certainly believe that the Lord loves justice hates robbery and wrong . Like Jesus’ day, the violence and injustice of our day demand a response. God would surely be justified in vengeance.  But then we follow Jesus into Galilee in Luke’s Gospel and see something amazing. Jesus lifts up this text in Isaiah 61 in the synagogue and names himself as the one who fulfills it. But, he leaves out vengeance.

How can God’s justice be sought without vengeance? How can we turn the other cheek in such a day as this? How can we love our enemies and bless those who curse us?  This is our Christmas work, to follow the God-incarnate Christ-child into the quiet night and bear witness like the shepherds of the work of God to under throw the world, to love us into holiness rather than beat us into submission, to bless instead of curse, to bring forgiveness instead of vengeance.

If Jesus is the prince of peace, then God’s Rule is the reign of peace brought about by our being transformed into love, justice, and peace embodied rather than enforced, and we all have work to do. Thank God for the Holy Spirit.

This is our season, people of Grace. We are to incarnate Christ’s peace, love, and justice in our everyday lives, in our words and actions. We are to bear witness in our choices to the God who is with us, within us, and in our darkest days by bearing his light through us by Grace. We begin here, gathered on Christmas eve again, seeing the light of Christ come in and lifting our voices in hope together, in proclamation of the good news, breaking bread together, and welcoming our Lord again, God Emmanuel.
In Christ,

The Very Rev. Daniel P. Richards, Rector & Dean
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