[Longer version]

In this, the glorious season of the Nativity, I greet the whole Church of Jesus Christ in the peace and love of the Lord, Who was born like us for our salvation. And to all Christians in every place, I offer my best wishes for a blessed and holy celebration of the Birth of our King and Savior.

In the Christmas season, most people travel many miles -to be with loved ones, to gather with family and friends, to enjoy the company of children, of relatives, and of all the people who are dear to us. They bring with them a priceless gift -their love, their companionship, their fellowship.

This is the power of Christmas; a power which brings, from near and far, the human family together in peace, in concord, and in love.

This power brought the righteous Joseph and the All Holy Virgin from Galilee to Bethlehem, to the ancestral home of the descendants of King David.

This power guided the shepherds who were watching their flocks by night in the fields, to come down to the village of Bethlehem to be with the Christ-Child.

This power compelled the wise men to travel from distant lands of the East, and to follow a star, in search of the New-Born King.

This power commanded angels to descend from heaven, to speak to the whole human family, to witness that the Savior of the world had come.

This power of love brought the Son of God, the eternal Word of the Father, down from above to make His home with us, that He might raise us up again to our heavenly home.

That first Christmas, some two thousand years ago, was truly a time for coming together, a time for angels and men to join voices in praise, a time for heaven and earth to gather around the manger and worship the newborn King.

Today, Christmas is still a time for coming together -a time for rejoicing and celebrating, a time for singing "Glory to God in the highest," and a time for seeking peace on earth, and good will among men.

For "He Himself is our peace," as the Apostle Paul says (Eph 2:14). "He came and preached peace to those who were far away, and to those who were near" (Eph 2:17). Indeed, the Child who was born for us, the Son who was given to us -He is none other than the Prince of Peace. In Him, and in Him alone, we find peace with God, and we find peace with one another.

This Christmas season, you may be traveling near or far; you may be staying home to receive guests. Whether you celebrate the holiday with family and friends, whether you are alone at work or away on a journey -wherever you are, I pray that the peace and fellowship of the body of Christ may be yours.

As you join with your loved ones for worship, for joyous adoration, for song and celebration -bring with you the priceless gift of true Christian fellowship.

Bring with you the spirit of Christmas, the love of God which came down from heaven some two thousand years ago.

Bring with you the spirit of forgiveness, acceptance, and reconciliation.

Bring with you open arms and open hearts.

Bring with you the peace that passes understanding, the peace that joins earth and heaven as one, the peace that sanctifies all Creation, the peace that is ours through God's Only-Begotten Son.

And may the song of the heavenly hosts remain in your hearts throughout the season: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, good will among all people."

To you and yours, I wish a Blessed and a Merry Christmas, and a Happy, Healthy, and Holy New Year.

[ December 25, 1998 ]