Dean Owens’ Christmas Message
The imagery of one of my favorite hymns, People Look East, turns us towards the rising sun to welcome the light of Christ. Eleanor Farjeon(who also wrote the poem Morning Has Broken) wrote it as a “Carol of Advent” but to me it spans both the seasons of Advent and Christmas, drawing our expectation into a place of joy and celebration. These two hymns, People Look East and Morning Has Broken, celebrate the wonder and joy that is renewed each time we look upon the goodness of God.
In People Look East, we await the coming of the guest for whom we set the table, the rose whose seeds we plant, the star that lights up the night sky. As we celebrate Christmas Eve, as we awaken on Christmas day and as we rest in the presence of God in the short season that unfolds afterwards, we rejoice in that arrival and in the fulfillment of God’s promise to us.
We look to the East because we hunger for God’s presence in our lives and in our world. When we see and experience so much suffering, when our world seems unable to break free of patterns that diminish and degrade the creatures of God, when human dignity seems forgotten, we cry out for God to be with us. Not just in a religious institution or in clever theology or in beautiful art, but as someone we can touch, embrace, love and cherish. We hunger not for a God who loves us from afar, but one who will join us as a guest at our table and who teaches us how to love one another.
Love, the guest, is on the way. The promise of Christmas is the arrival, and the story of God arriving as a newborn child transforms us entirely. The guest, it turns out, is not some holy cleric or royal dignitary but an infant who requires, above all else, unconditional and unceasing love, and who will grow to teach us more about love than we thought possible.
The great blessing of Christmas is that God’s promise to truly be with and among us is renewed each year, just as the promise of new life is renewed each time the dawn breaks. At Christmastime Jesus’ teachings on love begin anew as we focus our wholehearted and unconditional love upon him and upon the world that he loves so much.
May this season of Christmas be for you a time of celebration, holiness and rest. May God renew our hearts as we look to the light of the world, rising in the East to illuminate all of creation!