Dec. 23—Bishop’s Christmas Message


The Right Rev. William H. (Chip) Stokes, offers the Diocese of New Jersey his annual Christmas reflection.

Dear People and Friends of the Diocese of New Jersey,

O come, O come Emmanuel—The words have been sung and our Advent has come to a close.[1] As Maya Angelou wrote in her 2005 poem “Amazing Peace”—dedicated to her grandchildren and “all the children of the world”[2]

Into this climate of fear and apprehension,
Christmas enters,
Streaming lights of joy, ringing bells of hope
And singing carols of forgiveness high up in the bright air

Certainly, we do live in “a climate of apprehension and fear.” It can’t be denied. We are confronted with Images of war in Ukraine and other parts of the world; with wretched violence in our own communities; huddled masses languish at our nation’s borders; the homeless destitute crowd our cities; a pandemic is still raging around the world, compounded by other illnesses and diseases. What seems interminable distrust and rancor infect our national life. It can lead one to despair.

And yet, it is into this very world of apprehension, fear, doubts, uncertainties and sorrows that Christ comes. We are no different than those first shepherds who heard the angelic voice cry out, “Fear not! For to you is born this day in the City of David, a Savior which is Christ the Lord.” The angelic voice is addressed not only to those blessed first witnesses who lived with their own fears, apprehensions and perils, it is addressed to us today—each one of us.

As the great German Reformer Martin Luther observed,

“The Gospel does not merely teach about the history of Christ. No, it enables all who believe it to receive it as their own, which is the way the Gospel operates.”

“Of what benefit would it be to me,“

Luther continues,

“if Christ had been born a thousand times, and it would daily be sung in my ears in a most lovely manner, if I were never to hear that he was born for me and to be my very own?”[3]

Yes, Christ was born for us, is born anew into our hearts and into our world, calling us, beckoning us, each one of us into his marvelous light and love. Emmanuel…God with us.[4]

This is the Christmas announcement and the Christmas mystery. The angelic voice is calling us once again, to join the shepherds, and go, now to Bethlehem, “to see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.”[5] So let us go, go and rejoice.

Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel[6]

Susan joins me in which you all a blessed and joyous Christmas filled with the love and light of Christ.

Faithfully yours,

Bishop Stokes's SignatureThe Right Rev. William H. (Chip) Stokes
Bishop of New Jersey


[1] Hymn #56 – Hymnal 1982 (New York: Church Publishing Corporation)

[2] Angelou, Maya Amazing Peace (New York: Schwarz – Wade Books, 2005)

[3] Luther, Martin “To you Christ is born” found in Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas (Farmington, PA: The Plough Publishing House, 2001) Entry for December 24

[4] See Matthew 1:23

[5] See Luke 2:15

[6] Hymn #56 – Hymnal 1982 (New York: Church Publishing Corporation)