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A Christmas Message from Bishop Burkat

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 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 Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!’

-Luke 2:8-14

Poor, illiterate, dirty, unkempt, mostly loners…to shepherds guarding their flocks for the night, the angels announced the greatest news ever! This dark outpost, far from the powerful communities and major synagogues, became the center of the world.

Naturally, when an angel appeared with the breaking news of the birth of the Messiah, they were afraid. Why would this Good News be shared first with those tending sheep, rather than with high priests?

Why? Because the news of this night is too big for a temple, or a city, or even a nation to contain. The promise fulfilled that night upends the status quo and makes room for those not welcome elsewhere. After their initial shock, the shepherds live into new identities as they become alert, courageous, and obedient to the direction of the Great Shepherd. Luke tells us they leave their fields and go to worship the newborn child not in the holy temple but in a rough stable, a place for the outsiders whom God led there as well.

The Good News of Jesus’ birth invites everyone, even those who aren’t usually accepted, to be embraced by an accepting community of faith. It reaches each one of us in our dark and broken places, and makes us whole.

May Christ’s light and peace and welcoming grace fill you this Christmas—and overflow so that all the people you come in contact with will know through your witness that the birth of Jesus is Good News for them.

Gracious God, fill our hearts with joy at the news of your presence and light in the birth of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Inspire us to share this Good News with our service and love. Amen.

In Christ,

The Rev. Claire S. Burkat

Interim Bishop, Sierra Pacific Synod

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