"How the light gets in": A Christmas message for 2020 from Bishop Gates


Our Advent this year has been unlike any other.  Our waiting has an acute focus as we yearn not only to hear again the message of Christ’s birth, but we yearn–very tangibly–for this pandemic to come to an end.

We are missing so many of our customary holiday traditions, though I cannot overstate my gratitude for the creative ways that so many of our congregations have found to proclaim the good news of Christmas this year.  With drive-by pageants and online Lessons and Carols, and with vital ministries that continue to serve the most vulnerable neighbors in our midst, you continue to proclaim the Incarnation.  Thank you.

Somehow, even in this year of more quiet, contemplative offerings and scaled-back expectations, I have still found myself caught in the trap that arises every December–the need for every aspect of holiday preparations to be “perfect.”  We strive to script our holiday celebration just the way holiday letters are scripted–everything just right and in its place; everything destined to create, for ourselves and others, the ideal Christmas. 

And so I found myself deeply grateful when one of my diocesan staff colleagues posted a meme with this quote from Leonard Cohen:

Ring the bells that still can ring.  Forget your perfect offering. 
There is a crack in everything; that’s how the light gets in.

There are a whole lot of cracks in our world, and in our lives.  Brokenness around us; brokenness within us.  Neither our holidays, nor our lives, will be anything close to perfect.  Yet we look for the light entering by way of those cracks, and we take hope.  There is a crack in everything; that’s how the light gets in.

The Gospel readings for Christmas include Luke’s story of the Nativity, of course.  We delight to hear again the story of the quiet stable, the holy family, the noisy angels and astonished shepherds.  But at its deepest level it is the poetry of John’s Gospel which delivers to us the meaning of the Incarnation.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. … What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.  [John 1:1,3b-5]

May you know deeply in your heart, this year of all years, the hope proclaimed in the Incarnation.  Emmanuel–God with us.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not–and will not–overcome it.

Merry Christmas!  Feliz Navidad!  God’s blessing to you.
The Rt. Rev. Alan M. Gates