With all that’s been happening these last couple of days in the Middle East, I want to share the following Christmas Letter from my bishop, Barry Beisner, of the Diocese of Northern California:

Dear Friends in Christ:

Grace and peace to you this holy Season, and in the New Year.

As you may know, Ann and I took some vacation time mid-Advent to accompany a group of Oxford seminarians on pilgrimage to the Holy Land . She and I had each been there before, but this was our first opportunity in nearly eleven years of marriage to share such a time of encounter with the land of our Lord.

And with its people. We were blessed to have significant time with Palestinian Christians. One especially meaningful visit was to a Lutheran ministry named International Center of Bethlehem. One of their programs is an arts and crafts center that trains and employs young persons in creative and meaningful work. At ICB, I purchased some leaded stained glass Christmas ornaments, a collection of stars, wreaths, angels, and the like. An accompanying leaflet explains: “These art pieces were made out of…fragments of broken bottles thrown away or glass destroyed during the Israeli invasion of Bethlehem . Human hands pick them from among the rubble, then assemble them together by some of the poorest of the poor in the Bethlehem region at the ICB art workshops. These art pieces tell all about ‘the hopes and fears of all the years’ that people have in Bethlehem today. The broken glass pieces are a sign of the brokenness of our world, and it is also the reason for God to incarnate. Through His incarnation he brought the divine and the human back together; He picked what seems to be worthless and hopeless and transformed it into a beautiful and whole creation. It is this incarnation, which took place here in Bethlehem two thousand years ago, which gives us the strength to continue to look for broken lives and hopes and to transform them through art into angels and different art pieces, messengers of justice, peace, and dignity.”

So it is that a sign and symbol of one of the most moving encounters of our pilgrimage now hangs before me on our Christmas tree, reminding me of the urgent work to which we all are called: Christ’s ministry of reconciliation—in our homes, our communities, in the Church and in the world. Remember this Christmas that we are partners with Him in this work. We truly are His messengers of justice, peace, and dignity.

May the blessings of this Season and the joy of the New Year strengthen and encourage us all in our mission partnership with the Incarnate God.

Yours in the love of Christ,