bishopGuySermon for Christmas Eve - German Mass

Renew your commitment
The Rev. Dr. Guy Erwin, Bishop -


We live in challenging times. Much seems broken in our world: relationships between nations, between religions, between races, and even between our fellow-citizens in countries like the United States and Germany. We are shaken by violence and terror, as most recently in Berlin. And yet—in the middle of all this—we hear again the familiar, sweet story of Mary and Joseph, who found refuge when they needed it most. And we hear of the birth of Jesus, a sign of God’s love and a symbol of human hope.
I think hope is a challenge right now. It is so much easier to worry, to anticipate bad things will happen. It may even be, secretly, more exciting to feel dread than to feel hope. But we Christians are called by God to hope. We are shown over and over that our lives are a gift, even in uncertain times like these. And on this beautiful Christmas Eve in Southern California, we can give thanks that we are together to sing and pray and hear these adorable children.
But the Christmas holiday, though a wonderful break in our routine and a distraction from the world’s woes, is more than just a distraction. Christmas itself is a challenge to us: a challenge to live in greater love toward one another, deeper faith in God’s love for humankind, and stronger hope for the future. Right in our midst today there are Marys and Josephs who need our care; there are refugees who have given all they have to escape homelands full of violence and poverty. These people also need our care.
quote BishopGuy german2016 1Among those, both here and in Germany, who fear the change that may be brought by greater immigration, we need to calmly and firmly insist that in today’s world, walls will not work to divide us. Germans, above all, have a powerful understanding of the destructiveness and futility of building walls to prevent change. It only postpones and delays the growth we need to live together in a pluralistic society. I hope that truth becomes quickly apparent, and talk of wall-building soon comes to an end.
As Christians, Christmas reminds us that our first allegiance is not to nations or races or flags or laws, but to each other as human beings. We are all alike children of God and heirs of God’s promise. We hear again today the news of God’s good will toward us, as announced to shepherds on a hillside in Palestine over two thousand years ago. We preach this good news from our pulpits every Sunday. We live it out in our lives and actions today.
As your bishop, I invite you—now at Christmas and in the year ahead—to renew your commitment to support the well-being of your neighbor. Specifically, I urge you to speak and act on behalf of those who in our system are powerless: the undocumented, the homeless, the poor, and the refugee. I call on you to defend your neighbor of a different race or religion or class or sexual orientation or gender identity as you would defend yourself. Live out your faith, and show your love, in actions that benefit your neighbor.
So to the usual Christmas wishes and blessings let me add another word from Jesus: “Be not afraid.” Do not fear—because the God who loves us is greater than the human cruelty and hate that frightens us and makes us anxious. The God who created the universe is more powerful than our human ability to destroy it. And in our human weakness, we have Jesus—our friend, brother, Savior—with us and among us, bringing light into our darkness and renewed life in the face of death.
May the blessings and joy of Christmas fill your hearts, and sustain you in the New Year ahead!

The Rev. Dr. Guy Erwin, Bishop
South West California Synod, ELCA
Sermon for Christmas Eve, German Worship Service
December 24th, 2016

Mt. Olive Lutheran Church, Santa Monica, CA

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