Category Archives: Christmas

Christmas Decor Honors Veterans, Active-Duty Military and First Responders with Patriotic Pines

DALLASNov. 1, 2017 /PRNewswire/ — Christmas Decor, a leading holiday lighting and decorating franchise, has teamed up with Birds Eye View Project to launch Patriotic Pines in an effort to show support and bring awareness to military and first responder communities across the United States. At a time when our nation seems so much at odds, the partnership aims to play a role in spreading efforts of unity, hope, and appreciation for the country and those who spend their days protecting our way of life.

Christmas Decor and its network of 250+ operators will be donating the red, white, and blue Christmas trees and garland flags to military families, VA hospitals, VFW lodges, military recruiting stations, local police stations, and fire departments across the country this holiday season. Additionally, retail orders can be made at www.patrioticpine.com if individuals are interested in aiding in the awareness effort or donating to local organizations.

“We have taken the humble symbol of the American flag and created a line of products that allow each and every American to show their support and thanks for military families, veterans, and first responders,” stated Rayan Parrott, founder of Birds Eye View Project. “We believe with the help of Christmas Decor, we can spread a message of unity, pride, and support for our brave men and women at a time when our country needs it the most.”

The partnership formed when Dallas-based philanthropist and former Navy SEAL, Ryan Parrott decided to expand Patriotic Pine to a national level by connecting with Christmas Decor’s parent company, The Decor Group. The idea began as a way to honor U.S. military members who cannot be home for the holidays. At a time of year when many spend their days with family and loved ones, others do not have that luxury. They are the brave men and women of our armed forces and first responders protecting our country and daily way of life.

“When we were approached by the Birds Eye View Project with an opportunity to partner with an amazing cause like Patriotic Pines, it was another wonderful opportunity to support a group of people who we admire and aim to appreciate,” stated Brandon Stephens, president of Christmas Decor. “This program complements our existing Decorated Family Program which is in its 15th year of transforming the homes of servicemen and women each holiday season. These efforts are the least we can do for those who risk their lives of us daily.”

Now a seasonal tradition, hundreds of franchisees nationwide participate in the Decorated Family Program by donating products, resources, and time to decorate the homes of local military families with lights, garland, ornaments, and other trimmings. Following the decorating process, each decked out home is revealed during a surprise ceremony.

Operating in more than 300 markets and 49 states, Christmas Decor, Inc. is the largest professional holiday and event decorating franchise. The company offers complete decorating service programs including unique display design, installation, maintenance, and removal of holiday lighting and decorations – alleviating decorating stress while delivering the look customers want within a reasonable budget.

For more information on Christmas Decor and to find a local operator, please visit http://www.christmasdecor.net/

About Christmas Decor
Since its inception in 1986, Christmas Decor has risen to become the premier holiday lighting and decorating company in North America. The Texas-based company was founded by Blake Smith as an off-season supplement to his landscape business and as a method to provide year-round work for employees. Christmas Decor quickly emerged as a viable business opportunity and today, operates in more than 300 markets in 49 states and Canada. Christmas Decor is highly revered in its field and has received consistent recognition for its efforts, including its popular Decorated Family Programwhich has been featured on The TODAY Show, TIME.comCNN and FOX, among others. For more information, visit www.christmasdecor.net.

About Birds Eye View Project
Birds Eye View Project generates awareness and raises funds for charities supporting veterans and first responders. Former US Navy SEAL Ryan “Birdman” Parrott, and other Veterans offer an up close and personal look at the extreme needs of veterans and first responders, as well as the people and organizations working to help them realize nothing is impossible, even the most extreme challenges. 2017 Beneficiary organizations include: Sons of the Flag, Carry the Load, 22Kill, Adaptive Training Foundation, America’s Mighty Warriors, Base Camp 40, Rebuilding Warriors, and Rosecrance Florian.  Visit #Birdseyeviewproject and www.birdseyeviewproject.org for more information.

SOURCE Christmas Decor

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Depression and the Holidays; the Top Three Cues We Miss

Founder of nation’s leading depression clinic explains why depression spikes during the holidays

SEATTLE, Dec. 10, 2013 /Christian Newswire/ — The World Health Organization says Depression will be the number one disease in the World by 2020. Depression and the holidays often go hand-in-hand. Cold, dark months give way to eating binges and a nagging sense that our relationships or finances are not all that we’d like them to be.

The winter holidays are a grim reminder of what is, or what could have been, or of our disconnection from family. While holiday advertisements show happy families eating around ornately decorated tables the truth for millions of people is just the opposite; a lonely stressful time when the darkness of depression envelopes them like a blanket.

Dr. Gregg Jantz is a therapist who specializes in both depressive and eating disorders — twin culprits that are often closely linked. He is the author of Turning Your Down into Up: A Realistic Plan for Healing from Depression (www.aplaceofhope.com). He says depression boils down to a lack of hope. The triggers can be anything from broken relationships to

financial struggles, lack of work, shorter days, or lack of exercise.

“Depression interferes with the ability to make decisions, concentrate, focus, or remember things,” explains Jantz. Further, it shows up as sadness or anxiety and often promotes feelings of guilt, shame, and hopelessness. For Christians, depression can feel like a weakness or lack of trust in God. Women also suffer from depression at higher rates than do men but for both sexes depression is on the rise.

Like any other illness, depression unhinges families, steals joy, and otherwise keeps us from enjoying the positive aspects of life. “Purpose gives you the drive to keep going,” explains Jantz. “You need to create a purpose, plan, and mission for your life.” The holidays are simply a catalyst for what’s beneath the surface, a lingering sense that things are not as we’d like them to be.

To break the patterns of depression and live a life of hope, Jantz suggests we remember this simple truth: “A lack of purpose causes a lack of passion. Passion is what energizes your spirit, and purpose gives you personal meaning.”

New Flock TV Christmas Special Treats Viewers to a Fresh Retelling of the Beloved Nativity Story

The Birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ

The Birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Christmas Story Special’ Depicts Journey Leading to the Birth of Christ

ATLANTA, Dec. 5, 2013 /Christian Newswire/ — The good news
of Christmas is not about decorations, deals or midnight mall madness,
it’s the miracle of the birth of Christ and two teenagers who had the
courage to do God’s will. Flock TV, the online Christian television
network, presents the Christmas Story Special — a program that depicts
Mary and Joseph’s journey leading to the divine birth of Jesus Christ.
The Christmas Story Special airs during the month of December on www.flocktv.org.

The
Christmas Story Special is directed by Nate Bernard (SkyRocket Studio)
and stars JuliAnna Briscoe (Mary) and Nathan Hudson (Joseph). It
intertwines biblical scripture, historical context and insightful
commentary from Fuller Theological Seminary, Luther Seminary and Seton Hall University professors to make the nativity story relatable to everyone.

“It is very important to remind people of the real reason we celebrate Christmas: that God loves us so much that He gave us the ultimate gift —
His son, Jesus Christ,” explained Seth Longtin, executive producer and
founder of Flock TV. “We want to be a positive influence in the
entertainment industry and create programming that touches the heart of
every person who tunes in to one of our programs.”

Flock TV was
launched in June 2013 and is already gaining traction. The network
reaches nearly two million viewers, and its episodes have an average
audience of 300,000.

The Flock TV Christmas Story Special was
produced in association with SkyRocket Studio. The network extends a
special thank you to Dr. Joel Green, Fuller Theological Seminary
Associate Dean for the Center for Advanced Theological Studies and
Professor of New Testament Interpretation; Dr. Sarah Henrich, Luther
Seminary Professor, New Testament; Dr. Daniel Kirk, Fuller Theological
Seminary Associate Professor of New Testament; and Dr. Dianne Traflet,
Seton Hall University Associate Dean, Assistant Professor of Pastoral Theology, Founder and Co-Director of the Institute for Christian Spirituality.

About Flock TV
Flock
TV brings Christian beliefs and ideals to the world through relevant,
entertaining and scripturally-sound Christian television programs,
documentaries, movies and videos. The network features original
programming the entire family can enjoy. To view Flock TV programs and for more information, please visit
www.flocktv.org.

Springfield Welcomes Christmas Nativity Scene to State Capitol Rotunda Beginning December 3

Thomas More Society Facilitates Illinois’ Sixth Annual Display of Religion in the Public Square

SPRINGFIELD, Ill., Nov. 27, 2013 /Christian Newswire/ — The State Capitol Rotunda in Springfield welcomes the 6th annual Christmas Nativity scene beginning at noon on Tuesday, December 3, 2013. This privately-funded display of religion in Illinois’ public square has been hosted by the Springfield Nativity Scene Committee and facilitated by the Thomas More Society, a Chicago-based not-for-profit public interest law firm.

The Christmas crèche display will stand in the center of the Illinois State Capitol Rotunda, next to the Governor’s Holiday Tree, and will depict the newborn Christ child lying in a manger inside a handcrafted wooden stable. The official unveiling of the Nativity tableau will feature a celebration marking Christmas, the Christian holy day honoring the birth of Jesus Christ.

WHAT: Springfield Nativity Scene opening celebration

WHEN: Tuesday, December 3, 2013, at 12 p.m. noon to 1 p.m. (Central)
The exhibit will remain in the rotunda throughout the Christmas season.

WHERE: The Illinois State Capitol Rotunda, South 2nd Street & East Capitol Avenue, Springfield, IL
MAP: goo.gl/maps/vc7ch

WHO: open to the public, sponsored by the Springfield Nativity Scene Committee

CELEBRATION DETAILS:

 

    • Rev. Bernie Lutchman, President of Business Men in Christ of Springfield will give an invocation.
    • Springfield Baptist Church Official Praise Team led by Music Pastor Brian Morgan will perform Christmas carols.
    • Chaplain Steve Holden of US Emergency Chaplains Corps will lay a Christmas wreath in honor and special recognition of the service and sacrifice of America’s military veterans.

      Speakers include…

    • • Most Rev. Thomas J. Paprocki, Bishop of the Catholic

Diocese of Springfield in Illinois

      • Tom Brejcha, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Society and Springfield
      Nativity Scene Committee legal counsel
      • Pastor Charlie Carver, South Tower Community Church of Dawson
      • Beth Rogers, Springfield Nativity Scene Committee
    • Pastor Brian Williams, Broken Chains Church

The crèche and manger represent a constitutionally protected expression by private citizens in a traditional public forum, namely the Capitol Rotunda, where political rallies are routinely held during sessions of the Illinois General Assembly and other times. This is classic free speech and citizens’ free exercise of their religious faith in the public square, where the sole role of the government is that of a viewpoint-neutral gatekeeper assuring open access for all citizens to have their “say.” Government is neither censor nor endorser of such religious speech. This display is privately funded and sponsored by the Springfield Nativity Scene Committee, bereft of any government aid or endorsement, and therefore it is clothed and armored with the full protection of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and its counterpart in the Illinois Constitution of 1970.

The Springfield Nativity Scene Committee’s primary goal is to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. A secondary mission is to proclaim and demonstrate to the public and the media that such private expressions of religious belief in the public squares of the nation are not merely tolerated but fully deserving of robust legal protection.

Any individuals or groups wishing to sing near the Nativity Scene on weekdays over the noon hour are invited to contact Salli Chernis of the Illinois Secretary of State office, 217-782-8996 for a permit.

About the Thomas More Society
Thomas More Society is a national not-for-profit law firm that exists to restore respect in law for life, marriage, and religious liberty. Headquartered in Chicago, the Society fosters support for these causes by providing high quality pro-bono professional legal services from local trial courts all the way to the United States Supreme Court.
www.thomasmoresociety.org

Florida State Capitol Welcomes Christmas Nativity Scene Beginning December 3

English: Florida Capitol Complex as seen at Night.

English: Florida Capitol Complex as seen at Night. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thomas More Society Facilitates Tallahassee Display of Religion in the Public Square

TALLAHASSEE, Fla., Nov. 27, 2013 /Christian Newswire/
— The Florida State Capitol building in Tallahassee will become home
to a Christmas Nativity scene beginning at noon on Tuesday, December 3,
2013. This privately-funded display of religion in Florida’s public
square has been hosted by the Florida Nativity Scene Committee and
facilitated by the Thomas More Society, a Chicago-based not-for-profit
public interest law firm.

The Christmas crèche display will stand
in the center of the Capitol Rotunda and will depict the newborn Christ
child lying in a manger. The official unveiling of the Nativity tableau
will feature a celebration marking Christmas, the Christian holy day
honoring the birth of Jesus Christ.

WHAT: Florida Nativity Scene opening celebration

WHEN: Tuesday, December 3, 2013, at 12 p.m. noon to 1 p.m. (Eastern)
The exhibit will remain in the rotunda throughout the Christmas season.

WHERE: The Florida State Capitol Rotunda, 400 South Monroe Street, Tallahassee, FL
MAP: goo.gl/maps/O1AW1

WHO: Open to the public, sponsored by the Florida Nativity Scene Committee, chaired by Pam Olsen

CELEBRATION DETAILS:

  • Bishop Joe Brown, Senior Pastor of University Ministries, will lead opening prayer.
  • Father John Cayor, Rector of Co-Cathedral of St. Thomas More, will offer a prayer for the troops.
  • Students from Community Christian School in Tallahassee will perform Christmas carols.Speakers include…

    • Scott Beigle, Founder and President of Faith Radio

    • Alejandro Capote, Political and Community Coordinator of Noles4LIFE at Florida State University

After Christmas, on Friday, December 27, the holy family figures of
Mary, Joseph, and the Baby Jesus will be joined by figures representing
the Biblical Wise Men on the rotunda’s opposite side. The secondary
display, sponsored by Reclaim Christmas for Christ, founded by Sandra
Lee Snowden, will remain at the capitol along with the original nativity
through Monday, January 6. The dual exhibits will conclude with a
public January 6 commemoration of the Epiphany at noon (Eastern). The
Epiphany, widely practiced in Hispanic and Latino cultures as Three
Kings Day
, marks the visit by the “wise men from the East” to bring the
Christ child gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

The manger
scenes represent a constitutionally protected expression by private
citizens in a traditional public forum, namely the capitol rotunda. This
is classic free speech and citizens’ free exercise of their religious
faith in the public square, where the sole role of the government is
that of a viewpoint-neutral gatekeeper assuring open access for all
citizens to have their “say.” Government is neither censor nor endorser
of such religious speech. This display is privately funded and
sponsored, bereft of any government aid or endorsement, and therefore it
is clothed and armored with the full protection of the First Amendment
of the United States Constitution
.

The joint primary goal of the
Florida Nativity Scene Committee and Reclaim Christmas for Christ is to
celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. A secondary
mission is to proclaim and demonstrate to the public and the media that
such private expressions of religious belief in the public squares of
the nation are not merely tolerated but fully deserving of robust legal
protection.

The Tallahassee nativity initiative was inspired by
last year’s dispute over a Christian holiday display in the Chicago
suburb of Arlington Heights. Eventually resolved with intervention by
the Thomas More Society, the conflict has prompted America Nativity
Scene, founded by Jim Finnegan, to help place privately funded manger
scenes in public squares nationwide.

SC school lifts ban on religious Christmas carols

Alliance Defending Freedom letter informed school officials that First Amendment protects religious songs
Monday, November 25, 2013

Attorney sound bites:  Rory Gray  |  Jeremy Tedesco

ROCK HILL, S.C. — A South Carolina public charter school has removed a ban on Christmas music after receiving a letter from Alliance Defending Freedom sent on behalf of concerned parents. School officials had prohibited students from performing the music to “Joy to the World” and “O Come All Ye Faithful” after students had already begun rehearsing the pieces for a concert.A school official had initially claimed that some type of communication from either the American Civil Liberties Union or another group prompted the ban. The school looked into the matter, discovered that the official had actually acted on his own, and reversed the ban after gaining a better understanding of what the First Amendment permits and protects.“Schools shouldn’t have to think twice about whether they can allow Christmas carols, including ones with Christian themes that are naturally a part of the holiday,” said Litigation Staff Counsel Rory Gray. “We commend the school for quickly reversing the prohibition on such songs. It’s a shame that the pervasive climate of fear about Christmas that secularist groups have spread over the last several decades led some at the school to think that they had to ‘pre-emptively’ censor Christmas expression.”

York Preparatory Academy’s band director gave older students a choice of musical selections to perform at the school’s Dec. 19 “Winter Concert.” The students chose two songs that included the melodies from “Joy to the World” and “O Come All Ye Faithful.” After students had already begun practicing the music, the principal of the school excluded the songs and suggested that, in order for students to play traditional Christmas carols, they would need to play songs from other religions as well.

The Alliance Defending Freedom letter explained to the school that “every federal court to examine the issue has determined that including religious Christmas carols in school music programs fully complies with the First Amendment….”

“The Constitution clearly allows the inclusion of religious Christmas carols in school productions,” added Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco. “Now that the school has removed its unnecessary ban, the students at York Preparatory Academy will be allowed to proceed with the full range of music they’ve been working on so hard.”

Alliance Defending Freedom sent a letter last week to more than 13,000 school districts nationwide that explains the constitutionality of religious Christmas carols in school productions, provides legal resources on other issues that may arise regarding Christmas and public schools, and offers free assistance to schools that need help.

ADF to 13,000+ school districts: Christmas is constitutional

A gathering of Carol Singers in front of the C...

A gathering of Carol Singers in front of the Christmas Tree in Trafalgar Square, London England. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Letter explains First Amendment protections for Christmas expression, participation
Thursday, November 21, 2013

Attorney sound bites:  Jeremy Tedesco  |  Kevin Theriot

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. Alliance Defending Freedom issued a letter Wednesday to more than 13,000 school districts nationwide to explain constitutional protections for religious Christmas carols that some districts have censored due to misinterpretations of the First Amendment. The letter also backs up the legitimacy of schools participating in community service projects sponsored by religious organizations and offers free legal assistance to districts that need help.“Schools shouldn’t have to think twice about whether they can celebrate Christmas,” said Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco. “School districts can and should allow religious Christmas carols to be part of their school productions, and they can lawfully help impoverished children through community service projects such as Operation Christmas Child.”

The letter cites recent examples of school districts in Wisconsin and New Jersey that wrongly censored Christmas carols in school productions and then changed their positions in response to public outcry and letters from Alliance Defending Freedom explaining that the inclusion of religious carols is permissible.

As the letter explains, “every federal court that has examined the issue has determined that including traditional Christmas carols and other religious music in school music programs fully complies with the First Amendment….”

Most recently, a South Carolina charter school reportedly cancelled its participation in Samaritan Purse’s Operation Christmas Child, a toy drive for needy children, after a humanist group threatened the school with legal action.

“Public schools’ confusion about this issue and the legalities of celebrating Christmas in other ways has been largely caused by inaccurate information about the Establishment Clause spread by certain groups opposed to any religious expression occurring in public,” the nationwide letter states. “Alliance Defending Freedom has produced a Christmas Memo and a Christmas and Public Schools Myths/Fact Sheet that dispel these misconceptions…. Providing students an opportunity to put together a box of gifts for impoverished children throughout the world does not become unlawful just because the toy drive is sponsored by a religious organization.”

“The Constitution both allows and protects the celebration of Christmas in public schools,” added Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot. “We hope the materials we are providing to school districts will help clear up the misinformation that groups attempting to cleanse all traces of religion from the public square have spread for far too long.”

A December 2011 Rasmussen poll found that 79 percent of American adults believe public schools should celebrate religious holidays.

  • Pronunciation guide: Tedesco (Tuh-DESS’-koh)
Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
 

Black Friday Becomes Bless Friday® — Bless Friday® Adds New Churches in 4th Year

HOUSTON, Nov. 18, 2013 /Christian Newswire/ — Since 2010, Houston area churches have provided an alternative to frenzied Christmas shopping on the day after Thanksgiving. Continuing this tradition, Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church, Beacon of Light Christian Center, St. John the Divine Episcopal Church, St. Francis Episcopal Church, and

English: DC USA, Best Buy, Black Friday

English: DC USA, Best Buy, Black Friday (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

, are each scheduling community service projects on Friday, November 29. These churches ask families and individuals to celebrate Bless Friday® as an alternative to Black Friday.

Chuck Fox, founder
of Bless Friday, states, “I am excited that The Woodlands Community
Presbyterian Church and St. Francis Episcopal Church are joining Bless
Friday this year. People get our message that when we focus too much on
buying things, we lose sight of the real reason for Christmas –
remembering and honoring Christ. We want to begin our Christmas
celebration by serving others just as Jesus did.”

Bless Friday will be
more visible to the public this year with a post located at City
Centre, a mixed use development in west Houston. While City Centre
patrons are shopping
on Black Friday, Bless Friday will have a station in the plaza where
shoppers can stop and assemble bags designed to bless the homeless.
Passersby are invited to take one of the bags to keep in their cars and
hand out to the homeless. Pastor Brandon Gaide states, “On the most
consumer-oriented day of the year, we want to offer a way of being
constructively countercultural.”

Also this year,
Beacon of Light Christian Center plans to invite the surrounding
community to its church, located at 6655 London St. in south Houston for
a day of fellowship and caring. The church plans to serve the community
the entire day by offering food to the hungry, clothing to those in
need, and activities for people of all ages. Pastor Anthony Gasery
states, “Our community is filled with people who financially overextend
themselves at Christmas. We want to show them a more positive and more
spiritual way to celebrate.”

Some of the other
activities planned around the city include: prepping food, cleaning the
facility and welcoming clients at The Beacon, a homeless shelter
established by Christ Church Cathedral; performing light maintenance and
preparing the Gracewood Women’s Home for Christmas; holding an ice
cream sundae party for the residents of Omega House, a hospice home for
patients with HIV/AIDS; preparing shoeboxes filled with Christmas gifts
to be distributed by the International Seafarer’s Mission; bagging rice
and beans for food pantries; improving the physical condition
surrounding several churches; and picking up trash at Memorial Park and
Memorial High School.

Chuck Fox adds, “The
great thing about Bless Friday is that you don’t need to participate in
these planned activities. Any individual, family or group can identify a
need and begin their Christmas season with service.”

Bless Friday® was founded in 2010 to change the way Americans celebrate Christmas.

Two-Thirds of Americans Prefer ‘Merry Christmas’ Greeting

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

NEW HAVEN, Conn., Dec. 21, 2012 /Christian Newswire/ — A new survey finds Americans by a wide margin prefer the traditional “Merry Christmas” greeting to the non-specific “Happy Holidays.”

The Knights of Columbus-Marist Poll found that two-thirds of adults nationally — 66 percent — think people should say, “Merry Christmas,” while less than one-third — 29 percent — believe the appropriate greeting is “Happy Holidays.” The proportion that prefers “Merry Christmas” has continued to inch up over the past two years. Last year, 64 percent thought “Merry Christmas” was the more appropriate greeting while 31 percent preferred “Happy Holidays.” In 2010, the number preferring “Merry Christmas” stood at 61 percent.  Five percent remain unsure.

“That we prefer ‘Merry Christmas’ by such a wide margin is indicative of the importance that Christmas has in the lives of the great majority of Americans,” said Knights of Columbus Supreme Knight Carl Anderson. “For that vast majority of Americans who observe Christmas, this day and season are a time for us to celebrate the fact that God exists and is with us. Saying ‘Merry Christmas’ allows us to celebrate that fact with joy and let us share this joy with our loved ones and neighbors.”

The meaning of Christmas has long been important to the Knights of Columbus. For decades, the Knights have been at the forefront of the campaign to “Keep Christ in Christmas,” producing public service announcements (PSAs) with the “Keep Christ in Christmas” message since the 1980s. The radio and television PSAs reach millions annually. The PSAs can be accessed at kofc.org/christmas.

This Knights of Columbus-Marist Poll surveyed 1,246 adults and was conducted December 4 through December 6, 2012, and has a margin of error within +/- 2.8 percentage points. Results may be viewed at kofc.org/moralcompass.

The 2011 Christmas Encyclical by the Patriarch of the Orthodox Church

2011 Patriarchal Christmas Encyclical

Prot. No. 1192

+ B A R T H O L O M E W

By the Mercy of God
Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch

To the Plenitude of the Church
Grace, Peace and Mercy from our Savior Born in Bethlehem

“Christ is born again and the Angels sing once more:
‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will among all.’ ”
(Luke 2.14-15)

 Beloved brothers and sisters, children in the Lord,

The angels chant these three majestic proclamations and yet the great majority of human beings, although celebrating the feast of Christmas, cannot perceive the significance of the angelic song, instead asking themselves whether God is truly glorified today or why God should even be glorified; where can one discern on earth the peace that is announced, and why should contemporary humanity live with good will?

It is because, in reality, most people do not glorify God – either in their deeds or through their words.  Many of them doubt the very existence of God and God’s presence in their lives.  There are also many people that attribute responsibility to God for the misfortunate occurrences in their lives.  However, those who grumble against God err profoundly, since evil does not derive from Him.  On the contrary, the loving incarnation of the divine Son and Word, together with the consequent events of His Crucifixion and Resurrection, reshape the human person to its former beauty, granting eternal life and the peace that surpasses all understanding, while rendering human beings co-heirs of the heavenly kingdom.  This act of divine condescension, though embracing the ultimate humiliation, is in itself capable of glorifying humanity.  Thus, even if many people fail to glorify God in their hearts, nevertheless glory is rendered – by all creation and all things that take place among humans – unto Him who dwells in the highest.  We too, then, gratefully cry out with the Angels, “Glory to God in the highest,” for the immensity of His works and the incomprehensibility of His love for us.

Yet people also query the second angelic proclamation: “And on earth peace.”  How can we speak of peace on earth when almost half of the planet finds itself either in the act of or in preparation for war?  The sweet tone of the angelic proclamation regarding “peace on earth” is of course primarily a divine pledge that, if people adhere to the way indicated by the new-born Child, they will acquire internal peace and peaceful coexistence.  But, alas, most people are moved and drawn by the cymbals of war, ignoring the sound of the pledge for peace on earth.  We are not referring here to those who passionately support the use of weapons, but especially to those who transform gentle competition to unequal conflict, seeking the annihilation of any opposition.  In this respect, war is experienced as reality among members of rival social groups and parties of all kinds – whether racial, political, partisan, financial, ideological, religious, athletic or any other kind, where the intense mindset of members is converted into militant rather than peaceful.  However, this does not refute the truth proclaimed by the Angels, that – through the Nativity of Christ and the acceptance of His teachings – peace will indeed prevail on earth.  Christ came bearing peace; and if His peace does not prevail in the world, then responsibility lies with those who fail to accept and embrace this peace, not with the God who grants it.

Since this is the stance of contemporary humanity in light of the peace offered by God, it is hardly surprising that good will is rare among people.  The good intention of God toward humanity is assured, just as the favorable consequences of divine love are in principle apparent for all human beings and particularly tangible for all those who accept the angelic proclamations in practice.  By contrast, for those who reject these proclamations and are given to exploiting and abusing others, the consequences are experienced as a crisis of stress and anxiety, as a crisis of economy and meaning, and finally as existential uncertainty.

Beloved brothers and sisters, children in the Lord,

All the proclamations of the Angels during the birth of the Lord are realities that exist and are experienced today in fullness by those who believe in Jesus Christ as the Divine-Human Savior of the world.  Let us begin from this year to live Christmas in a way that pleases God, the giver of all good things, so that we might experience in our hearts the transcendent peace and the loving good will of God toward us.  Let us render ourselves as loving human beings in our relationship to God and other people, becoming sharing persons rather than selfish individuals.  Let us remove the masks that estrange and divide us from God and His human image, our fellow human being.  And let us fulfill our destiny in the likeness of God by practicing our faith in Him.  Let us, too, proclaim the angelic song to humankind, which is suffering terribly and cannot discover Peace and Good Will through its conventional ways.  The only way of overcoming war and all forms of crisis, such as the financial one that plagues our world, is our Lord Jesus Christ, who assured us that His is the Way, the Truth and the Life.  Therefore, we glorify God in the highest and Jesus Christ who condescended to dwell among us.  And we proclaim with the Angels that Peace is accessible and truly exists on earth and within our hearts because we have been reconciled to God through His good will to assume flesh by His birth in the manger.

So let us experience the joy of the Nativity of Jesus Christ and the foretaste of all the benefits announced by the threefold proclamation of the Angels. Amen.

At the Phanar, Christmas 2011

+ Bartholomew of Constantinople
Fervent supplicant for all before God