Merry Christmas, everyone. I pray that the past few days have been peaceful and hopeful and joyful and all the “ful’s” that we long for so fervently this time of year. Christmas Eve and Day were certain full, full to the brim with beauty and holiness – from the beauty of the church to the children’s pageant to the music of the choir, I feel so very full. And I am full of gratitude at your generosity in support of our two loose-plate offering recipients – Episcopal Relief and Development and St. Simon’s After-School. I don’t yet have a tally of the offering yet, but given the tradition of generosity at Transfiguration, I trust it will be a significant, impactful gift to two incredibly worthy organizations.
This past week we’ve been continuing the 12-day holy season of Christmas with observances of St. Stephen’s Day (the first deacon and martyr of the Church), St. John’s Day (the one who penned the most beautiful lines in history: the Prologue to John’s Gospel), and the Feast of Holy Innocents. This last day is of special significance to me, as it not only commemorates Herod’s pointlessly brutal massacre of babies in Bethlehem, but also draws our attention to the pointlessly tragic deaths of children in our own day. Holy Innocents is for me forever tied to Sandy Hook Elementary, and so I always make a donation to the work of Everytown for Gun Safety. It’s not too late for you pray for the holy innocents of our own day, be they children conscripted into militias in Africa or children fleeing the carnage of Syria or children right here in Dallas trapped in abusive homes.
This weekend we’ll observe the seventh and eighth days of Christmas, and rather than sing about swans-a-swimming or maids-a-milking, we’ll celebrate the Holy Name of Jesus. January 1 is not only New Years’ Day, but also the Feast of the Holy Name. As I preached back in Advent, Jesus is just a Latinized-version of the Hebrew name Yeshua, and the root word of Yeshua is the Hebrew verb “to save.” It is important to acknowledge that we worship and follow a Lord whose name is salvation, because it helps us let go of an idolatrous obsession with self-reliance. God sends his Son into our midst not simply for the sport of it, or to prove that it’s possible, but because we need saving. Saving us from what we’ve become and what we’ve made of the paradise we were given is what Jesus is about. He’s more than a coach or a guru or a mentor; he’s a Savior. Savior of the World.
Be careful out there this weekend, friends, and I hope to see you Saturday or Sunday as we carry on with our Christmas joy. We can pray and sing and worship together in thanksgiving for the one whose holy name is salvation, the Word made flesh, Jesus the Christ.