Bishop Knisely’s Christmas message 2017

Bishop Knisely invites us to find God in the quiet, still moments of Christmas

Some years I find myself in the Christmas spirit early in December, some years it doesn’t seem to arrive for me until Christmas Eve is nearly upon us. This year it’s been the latter case. I know Christmas is nearly here and for the most part I’m ready, but I’m still in an Advent frame of mind.

Perhaps it’s because I’ve been spending our last few months following the big stories dominating the news. Stories about national health care, tax code, diplomacy, politics and so much more. It can be overwhelming. And it all feels and sounds so important. I wake up in the morning wondering what important development has taken place overnight. I find myself looking outward and not inward, looking at the big picture and not paying attention to the little things.

But if you spend time with the scriptures, you might notice that they don’t seem to focus on such big stories at all – other than how they affect the people that we meet in the Bible. The focus instead is on the people and how they live with each other, how they treat one another. What the Bible seems to think is important is how two brothers get along, how willing people are to care for their neighbors, how we care for the stranger in our midst. The big stories, the accounts of the great kings and their empires mostly serve as a backdrop for the more intimate family stories that make up most of the Bible.

This all comes to the forefront when we get to the second chapter of Luke. We start with a passing mention of the greatest empire the west has ever known and quickly we find ourselves hearing not about palaces and fabulous wealth but about two people expecting a child and a small band of shepherds watching their flock in a rocky field outside a village in Palestine.

St. Francis of Assisi once noted that on Christmas night, that the Universe itself was found in the small stable where the Christ Child was born and swaddled. C.S. Lewis used that observation as inspiration for placing his wondrous world of Narnia in a wardrobe found in an empty room in an old house. God seems to see things differently than we might expect. Our God who upholds the cosmos and knows all of time and space in an instant, enters our small world in the intimate moments of our daily lives.

And just as God was known in the birth of the Christ Child and for a moment contained in a small space as the child was worshiped and loved by his parents, so too we probably have our most authentic experience of the Holy when we gather together as friends and family on Christmas Day. The giving of gifts, the sharing of a meal and warmth of just being together is, in a very homey and profound way, the truest and most intimate communion we have with the God who is Love itself.

My prayer for all of you this year is that in the coming twelve days of the Christmas Season you too will have the opportunity to experience God in the love you share with the people closest to you. May God grant you the quiet moments that will let you recognize the real presence of God – who is always with us but whom we miss because we’re often looking at the wrong things.

This year let us all look at what God thinks is important, the love we share with one another.

Bishop of Rhode Island