Christmas Eve 2021
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Greetings in the name of our incarnate Lord Jesus Christ. It has become popular nowadays to criticize the missionaries of the 19th century, and being human, they made lots of mistakes, to be sure. But we do well to recall their courage too. For a vivid example, think of Father Damien, the leper of Molokai. The superior of his Roman Catholic Congregation of the Sacred Names of Jesus and Mary asked a room full of potential missionaries who would be willing to go to the fearsome Molokai, island of lepers and promise of certain contagion for any long-term visitor. Every hand went up. That too is an example of missionary history!
But my main point has really to do with the Incarnation. Imagine what Damien saw when his boat neared the shore- a band of people, stranded, missing fingers or ears or nose, or nearing death, reaching out their hands to receive him. It was a year later, at Eastertide, that he stood among his flock and said ‘Greetings in the Lord, my fellow lepers.’ The saints are significant not in themselves but in the way the point to Jesus. So we must think of the mystery of the Nativity as God’s boat nearing our shore, and His whole life, your manger through the cross, as His full taking on our condition.
There are moments in the recent past when we too may have felt stranded on such a lonesome island, with our own spiritual deformities, reaching out our arms. This season these feelings are but the occasion for this great mystery, in its terrible and wonderful depth, of Emmanuel, ‘God-with-us.’ May that same Lord bless you, your families, your congregations, and your neighborhoods in this season.
The Rt. Rev. Dr. George R. Sumner
Bishop of Dallas