The season of Christmas is above all a season for giving and receiving gifts. In Christmas, we celebrate the most important gift of all, the gift of God’s coming into the world in human form to point the world toward wholeness, justice, healing, salvation and peace.
When I look at our beloved Diocese of Maryland, I always see an abundance of gifts. Not just the hundreds of individual financial contributions that we receive in this holy season – for which we are immensely grateful. But rather, I have the abiding sense that we are all surrounded – literally engulfed – by gift, manifested by the valuable gifts of love, of family and friends, of food and shelter, and of life itself.
Sadly, though, I am also painfully aware that for far too many of us there is little evidence of the gift of Christmas. For many people throughout Maryland this season, there will be no chestnuts roasting on the open fire, no colorful presents displayed under beautifully decorated trees, no warmth of a cozy home with a fireplace, no gathering of family and friends bringing boxes of satin-wrapped presents. Not this Christmas, nor any other for the foreseeable future.
That’s why I’m so passionate about what we are doing every day in this Diocese to spread the love of God in concrete ways to those in need. And that’s also why I am so passionately grateful for you making it possible for us to do so through your support of the Bishops’ Annual Ministries Appeal.
If in this season you or those you love are experiencing a heavy burden or loss, here is my Christmas hope for you: that you’ll discover that you are not alone. God himself stands with you. The mystery of the Incarnation is that God chose to become poor in human form for our sakes. My prayer for you is that you will find in an Episcopal Church community a circle of love that will surround you with the grace, mercy and comfort that you desire.
And for those of you who lack no material comfort this year, but are spiritually poor – that is, you feel empty of the love and generosity that only God can give, then help is on the way. Jesus has come to be incarnate in you! For Christmas is not for those who have everything, and want everything; rather, the power of Christmas is its power to lift up those who havenothing.
In fact, the greatest gift that you can possibly receive this day is the gift of you…the real you, the one whom God has come to save and to make whole again. You are the gift! Your presence, your prayers and your generosity is an incredible gift for me and many others. Thank you for being the gift you are, and may you and all you love have a very Merry Christmas this year!
The Right Rev. Eugene Taylor Sutton
Bishop of Maryland