Episcopal Diocese of Western New York

No One Expected This!: Bishop Franklin’s Christmas Message

Dear Friends,

After four weeks of Advent waiting and watching, Christmas has finally arrived. Many of us welcome the holiday with the same rituals each year-we put up a tree, we buy and wrap presents, we attend a pageant or a midnight service on Christmas Eve. Our memories of Christmases past blur together, like those of the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas who, in “A Child’s Christmas in Wales,” couldn’t remember if it “snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve or whether it snowed for twelve days and twelve nights when I was six.”

Our Christmas celebrations are so familiar that they can sometimes make us forget just how astonishing the first Christmas was. During the troubled times of the first century Roman empire, many faithful people were waiting for the Messiah, but most were not looking for God to enter human history as a child born to a poor, unmarried teenage girl in the farthest reaches of the empire. They thought that prophecy would be fulfilled, perhaps, by a child of high status born in a palace in the imperial city and revealed first to the emperor and important officials. But as it turned out, the Prince of Peace was no earthly prince at all. No one expected this!

This Christmas, I think we can all identify a little bit with those surprised people in the first century. Many things in our world today seem unsettled, and we aren’t sure what the future will bring. Even as we prepare our traditional Christmas celebrations, we don’t know exactly what to expect from the world around us.

But this is where we find the great miracle of Christmas. At the most uncertain time in the most unexpected way, Jesus came to live as one of us-to be the light of the world. Christmas means that as Christians, our job is to embrace uncertainty, to extend the Christmas miracle by looking for God in unexpected places. I am so grateful to see so many places in our diocese where you are doing just this by feeding the hungry, caring for the poor, welcoming the stranger and proclaiming the good news that God is with us. This is the hope of the Christ child made real among us, and it is a miracle that lasts all year long.

May you and all those you love have a blessed Christmas.

Yours in Christ,
Bishop Bill