Bishop Hughes talks about preparing for this Christmas in a way that we've never prepared for Christmas before. (Time: 4:39.)
This is Bishop Hughes in the Diocese of Newark, and I want to talk with you about preparing for Christmas, preparing for Christmas this year in a way in which we've not ever prepared for Christmas before. Ironically though, it is a way that we have learned to prepare for celebration this year: Ash Wednesday, Holy Week, Easter, Pentecost, graduations, the return of a regular schedule as school began in September, Thanksgiving. We have learned how to live with health precautions this year in pandemic and as infection rates and hospitalization rates and death rates have risen all around our state, it is clear that we have to continue being careful right through Christmas and into the new year. And we know how to do this.
I certainly understand any sense of loss or disappointment that we might feel at Christmas, but I keep thinking about John the Baptist. In part, it's because we've just heard his story in Advent 2 and 3, and it's not just that we've heard his story, we've heard what he said about himself: "I came to baptize with water, but there is one greater than me who is coming, and he will baptize with fire." His story, his words about himself, his actions were all a witness, a witness to Jesus. To Jesus who John did not even know at that point.
And so, I want to ask you to consider trying this as you prepare for Christmas. As a matter of fact, it might be the biggest and best way you can prepare for Christmas this year, this very different Christmas. That as you go about getting yourselves ready for Christmas, as you think about Christmas, ask yourself how you can be a witness. How can your words, how can your actions, how can your preparations all be a testimony to Jesus' incarnation. That God so loved God's creation that God sent a part of God's self to be with us. How can your actions be a testimony to that?
It strikes me that it's not just being careful that is so challenging to the times we live in. Three hundred thousand people have died in the United States. People are dying – between 2000 and 3000 are dying every single day. Think of the amount of grief that people are going to experience this Christmas. How can you be a witness of God's love to people who are grieving? We have seen the records of unprecedented hunger happening. We see it every weekend in New Jersey as people move from food pantry to food pantry trying to get enough food together to feed their families. How can you be a witness to those who are hungry?
We know that mental health needs have only increased during this time. What can you do in your words, in your actions, in your prayers that will be a testimony to Jesus' love?
I know it's going to be an unusual Christmas, but I have a feeling that it could be a Christmas that is so filled with love because it is focused on the most important thing: that God sent God's own son to come and be with God's people so they would always know they are loved by God.
Would you be willing to be a witness to that this Christmas?