Thursday, December 17th, 2020
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”
Advent is that long twilight where darkness fills our days, and reminds us to prepare for the new light that will change the world. The past ten months have lengthened our journey through the long night. Yet despite the apparent gloom, we hold fast to the hope found in Jesus Christ. The truth found in the manger allows our vision to focus on the faintest glimmer of light slowly rising over this distant horizon. The hope of Christmas found in the reality of the coming Christ child enables us to envision what William Wordsworth described as a world "apparell'd in celestial light" with "the glory and freshness of a dream."
The light of Christmas is breaking over the horizon, and at the same time, the end of this long journey shimmers in the distance. COVID will end, and we must faithfully step into a new and changing world with courage and resolve.
This is the once in a lifetime opportunity for the Church and our diocese. We are a strong, historic, and resilient diocese, and we have demonstrated our faith during this long journey. We are revolutionary, one people, one diocese, one love and we are stronger now than we were on March 1st of this year. We must approach the waking day with optimism and the chance to go deeper in faith, imagining a new world, all while building a stronger and life-giving church. We must and we will.
From the depth of my being, I believe in this family we call The Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania, because I believe in the promise of Christmas and the coming of Jesus Christ. God loves us with an eternal love beautifully manifested when Jesus took upon himself our nature to share in our joy and pain. This knowing allows us to dream, and when we dream, we have hope, and hope does not disappoint.
Let us step forward into this Christmas and each day ahead with a Unity of purpose and no fear of failure, because Christ is with us.
The birth of Jesus signaled to all of creation that our relationship to God, one another, and the world is forever changed. The knowing that God walks with us empowers the timidest souls to proclaim the goodness of life. Throughout time, when darkness and gloom have seemingly overshadowed the light of life, we look toward the miracle in Bethlehem. Our ears once again hear the words: "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: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord."
As a people of God, we cannot approach the next few years seeking only to survive; we must strive to thrive. Imagine a church filled with life, doing those things we believe impossible, building, growing, and transforming the world around it. From the manger, Jesus is powerfully calling us to himself and shining the light of hope into our darkness. Let us look at 2020 as a gift, for it is was a time of trial, prayer, and preparation. Now, we are awaiting the birth of our Savior. Each day forward, we have the opportunity to tell the sacred Story, ever ancient and ever new, to a world desperately seeking meaning. A revolution of the heart where we will reform and renew our faith and Church. We must also do something that Episcopalians tend to shy away from – the Holy Spirit moving, guiding and propelling us forward.
In the coming months, I will call for this historic and revolutionary diocese to focus on three brilliant rays of light. They are Mission (proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ), Service (strengthening our churches, serving the community and building up our society), and Poverty (addressing it in all its forms- economic, physical and spiritual). It has become clear that many have never heard the Good News as proclaimed in the Episcopal Church's authentic voice. As one people and one diocese, we will lock arms and touch the world in His name and lean into a world where people are frightened and suffering. Our work as followers of Jesus Christ will come to life through the efforts of faithful people who believe from the depth of their being in the indescribable love and power of Jesus Christ.
Let us hope upon hope, for we are the last, best hope in the world right now.
From out of our faithful ministries, I know that something extraordinary will emerge. Christmas is the time to understand our purpose as a people and as a Church. I ask you to take a few moments this Advent and shed a few tears for this past year. Then I ask that you kneel beside your bed and offer gratitude unto the Lord for the promise that is found in the manger. For this promise, this truth, will guide us into the future. As one diocese, formed in the One Love of God, we step forth out of the darkness with a unity of purpose and no fear of failure. Let us lean into what awaits, proclaiming, "We can, and we will.”
A new star is rising, angels are singing, shepherds lead to a sacred and unique place. We rejoice and kneel beside the manger, all while taking great comfort in the knowledge that the Lord is with us. Let us open our eyes in faith that we may see it flickering, just on the edge of the horizon. For unto us, a child will be born.
Most blessed Christmas, my dear family, and may the Holy One bless you and our diocese.
Your brother in Christ,
The Rt. Rev. Daniel G. P. Gutiérrez
XVI Bishop of The Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania