Friday, December 25, 2020
“For to us a child is born,” (Isaiah 9:6)
A merry and blessed Christmas to you and your loved ones. As surprising as it may sound, this week, anticipating the birth of the Lord, I have been reflecting more and more upon his resurrection appearance to the two disciples on the way to Emmaus. Before we go to the end of the story, let’s begin with John the Baptist. Some folks from the head office in Jerusalem came to him by the Jordan River to ask him who he thought he was. When he denied being anyone of any importance, they asked him why then was he baptizing. John responded: “I baptize with water; but there is one among you whom you do not recognize” (John 1:26).
There it is. There is one among us whom we or many others do not recognize. Yet he is here among us. A child has been born to us. A son has been given to us. A great light has shone upon us. Yet, for some reason, all too many continue to walk in darkness. And yet, as Paul told Titus: “The grace of God has appeared.”
This is what brings me to Emmaus. Those two disciples were walking, one might say wandering, in darkness. They literally walked in the shadow of death, the death of the Lord on Good Friday. Perhaps, not many of us are so loaded down by the death of a good friend, though in these days of COVID that is quite possible. Most of us, however, mosey along, tending to our own sheepfold, rather unaware of the presence of one among us whom we do not recognize. He even may be that child crying in a crib. He may be the one walking right next to us as was the case with those two disciples.
The key is that we must have an encounter with this One, something he is quite eager to provide. After all, he does come up to us a lot even though we may not recognize him. What can help us to see him, hear him, meet him, and know him? It strikes me that the two ways presented by the Lord to those travelers are the same means given to us: Scripture and the Eucharist. Jesus broke open the Scriptures for them showing them that the prophecies of the Old Testament were fulfilled in him. This has been the purpose of the Bishop’s Year of the Bible, BYOB as the communications people have labeled it! I firmly believe that Jesus is the Word of God and thus the Word of God reveals Jesus. That explains the purpose of this year as we read the Bible together.
The second means is the Breaking of the Bread, the Eucharist. When Jesus celebrated this Eucharist with those two disciples, he vanished from them since their eyes were opened and they recognized him. Only then did they also realize how their hearts had been burning within themselves as Jesus broke open the Scriptures. The Eucharist can seem routine to many of us. But it is the glorious means by which Jesus makes himself present and makes his presence known.
Word and Sacrament, both of which we celebrate today are meant by our Lord to show himself to us. It may not be angels announcing this good news of great joy as it was to the Shepherds. But if we truly want to see the light, let us listen closely and see deeply here and now and we will meet the Lord. Then we, cleansed by Jesus, shall be “for himself a people as his own, eager to do what is good.” God bless you all.
Assuring you of my prayers, I am sincerely yours in Christ,
Bishop of Lansing