Christmas message from the Bishop
(Also posted to Bishop Gronberg’s Facebook page.)
As an undergrad I volunteered for the Phillips Brooks House Association. This organization, established over 100 years ago and one of the largest completely student governed programs of its kind, serves low income and vulnerable populations in the Cambridge and Boston communities with a variety of services. In so doing it carries on the name and legacy of the late Rev. Phillips Brooks (1835-1893). Brooks, a graduate of the College, was rector of Trinity Church in Boston, and later Bishop of Massachusetts. A fine career but Brooks today is most remembered for having authored the well loved Christmas carol, “O Little Town of Bethlehem.”
This carol is deeply loved for its comforting tune and text. We sing it reflecting on still nights, dark streets, and the dream of peace on earth. Indeed I also have deep affection for this carol. Yet my recent trip to Bethlehem has challenged those images. The carol’s romanticism, although attractive, clashes with my experience of the actual Bethlehem.
The actual Bethlehem is an alive and raucous place. The city of our Savior’s birth is bursting with music, culture, markets, and spirit despite its great challenges. This is a city walled in without control of its borders or water supply (which we experienced). Its commerce, transit, and supply chains are heavily regulated yet it is hardly a sleepy place. The Christian community in Bethlehem, including our Lutheran sisters and brothers at Christmas Lutheran Church contribute to this vibrancy. Worshipping, teaching, and witnessing they serve and educate children, Christian and Muslim alike, and provide them hope despite the challenges they face.
Bethlehem is not a sleepy city. Even the place of Christ’s birth, the Church of the Nativity, is far from quiet. Despite the constant schussing of the priests the languages of nations across the globe reverberate in less than whispered tones. And why should they be quiet? Was it quiet at the manger that first Christmas Eve? With livestock and the sounds of a newborn all around one can hardly believe that to be true. How could it have been and how can they, how can we, be silent? This is the place where, as Brooks wrote, “the hopes and fears of all the years” are met. This is a place where bold proclamation of God’s solidarity with human suffering and death, of the word become flesh, is made real and hopeful in the noisy and messy birth of a child. Emmanuel, God with Us, come down into all our human reality, “this world of sin.”
And so this Christmas my prayer for us as NT-NL is that Christ may more fully inhabit us and challenge us. That we not be silent but be emboldened in mission and evangelical desire to proclaim the good news of Emmanuel, plant new ministries, invite others to hear a hopeful word, reach beyond traditional demographics, serve the poor and marginalized, and grow our church’s impact in every community we serve. To speak truth to power, to engage in service to the least and the lost, to challenge our assumptions and privilege, and to give thanks God has, as we sing, “Come to us, abide with us, Our Lord Emmanuel.”
It is my prayer this Christmas that the gift of the word made flesh would, particularly as we enter 2017 and the 500th anniversary of the reformation, continue to inspire and reform us into people worthy of this precious gift poured out for us. That is what Phillips Brooks inspired and encouraged his congregations to do in his time. It is still, two centuries later, the calling of those who follow the babe of Bethlehem, Emmanuel. This is our God, who comes to us and abides with us, so that we might serve others, “In Mission Together.”
Bishop Erik K. J. Gronberg
Christmas greeting from Synod staff
To you, this night, is born a Child
Of Mary, chosen mother mild;
This tender Child of lowly birth,
Shall be the joy of all your earth.
These are the tokens ye shall mark,
The swaddling clothes and manger dark;
There shall ye find the young Child laid,
By Whom the heavens and earth were made.
Now let us all, with gladsome cheer,
Follow the shepherds, and draw near
To see this wondrous Gift of God,
Who hath His own dear Son bestowed.
(from Martin Luther’s From Heaven Above to Earth I Come)
We appreciate all that you do for your congregation and community and how well you represent the NT-NL Synod and the ELCA. Merry Christmas!!!
Your Synod staff (L-R): Kris Totzke (Bishop’s Associate for Leadership Formation and Congregational Care), Tyna Oslie (Administrator), Bishop Erik K. J. Gronberg, Jeanne Heggen (Finance and Database Asssistant), Jason O’Neill (Communications Manager); Not pictured: Stephanie Varnum (VP and Interim DEM), Hattie Hammer (MEF Executive Director)
No News Next Week
We will not be releasing an issue of NT-NL News for Monday, December 26. We will resume in January 2017.
Save the Date
BRIDGES Book Club: Letter from a Birmingham Jail (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)
Saturday, January 14
2-4pm at Trinity, Fort Worth
4-6pm at New Life in Christ, Duncanville
Where in the world is?
- Dec. 23 – Jan. 2 – Office closed for holidays
- Dec. 27 – Jan. 1 – Family vacation
- Dec. 23 – Jan. 2 – Office closed for holidays
- Dec. 25 – Jan. 3 – Family time in Wisconsin
- Jan. 14: Public Witness Team for Peace and Justice monthly meeting
- Jan. 14: BRIDGES Book Club: Letter from a Birmingham Jail (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)
- Jan. 23-25: Tri-Synodical Theological Conference
- Jan. 27-29: NT-NL Junior High Gathering
- Feb. 10-11: Mission / Synod Council Meeting
- Feb. 10-11: Tri-Synodical Lutheran Men in Mission Gathering
- Feb. 11: Public Witness Team for Peace and Justice monthly meeting
- Feb. 12-14: 2017 Lutheran Legislative Event
- Feb. 19-21: LSTC Seminary Sampler
- Feb. 25: North Texas Senior Fest 2017 (ALOA)
- Feb. 25: Creation Care and Climate Change (PWT)
- Mar. 3-5: NT-NL Peer Ministry Leadership Training (grades 9-12)
- Mar. 3-5: NT-NL Lenten Retreat (grades 4-6)
- Mar. 11: Public Witness Team for Peace and Justice monthly meeting
- Mar. 25: Dallas Area Metro North SWO Retreat
Access our full online Calendar here. Updates made regularly.
Do you have news or announcements to share? Please submit them to the Mission Area office (MissionOffice@ntnl.org) for consideration for our next NT-NL News. Remember to include a picture or logo.
Looking for information in past NT-NL News? Find NT-NL News archives here!