A Pastoral Message

Christmas Message 2023

“This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!

Luke 2:12-14


This photo, of a nativity scene with the infant Jesus placed in a pile of rubble, was taken several weeks ago inside Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem, located in the West Bank. Though it is located miles away from the intense combat in Gaza, the impact of the Israel-Hamas war is clearly felt there and around the world. The death and violence and destruction of recent months is hard for us to fathom, and while we may be tempted to scroll past these images or shrug our shoulders and turn away, this haunting image reminds us that Jesus was born in the midst of chaos and violence.


On December 28, the church commemorates the Feast Day of the Holy Innocents, Martyrs, recalling the order from King Herod that all children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and younger be killed, so as to prevent the new king, Jesus, from threatening his hold on power. While the circumstances surrounding this tragic event and the current realities are different, we mourn the estimated 8,000 children who have died in Gaza since this conflict began, innocent lives lost in the war.


And yet, Christ is still born in our midst. Lutherans call this the “theology of the cross,” recognizing that we most clearly experience the presence of God in times of hardship, loss, and suffering. Even though we may be tempted to gloss over and turn away from the painful and hard times in our lives and in our world, we give thanks that God finds a way to gather the rubble of our broken lives, our broken relationships, our broken dreams, our broken world, and place the infant Jesus right in the middle of it all. Christ is born; love wins; peace will find a way.


Thanks be to God,

Bishop Paul Erickson