Beloved: Mary probably didn't hear the choir of angels. On that first Christmas night in Bethlehem, it would have been chilly, there would have been pain mixed with tears after giving birth, alone in a strange place, as a teenage girl with a man she barely knew, separated from all she loved -- she probably didn't hear the angels. Joseph probably didn't see the star that night. Traveling on foot for days with a young woman who carried a child that was not his own, kneeling next to her while the barn animals looked on and the baby was born, envisioning all that might lie ahead for a simple carpenter -- he probably didn't see the star. But there were angels, and there was a star that lit up the sky. Our story tells us so. This year, we are living through a Christmas like no other. It is probably closer to the original Christmas than those of past years. We might not be hearing choirs of angels or seeing the star of Bethlehem. But the story is still real -- very real. And, the story is still God-anointed. Amid the pain, uncertainty, loneliness, and unfamiliar things that mark this Christmas amid twin pandemics, the miracle still unfolds. That is one of the joys of Christmas -- each year, the Christ child is born anew into our lives and into the world. We celebrate an ancient story, but as people of faith, we also rejoice in the coming of a savior, the Prince of Peace, who comes bearing the gift of unconditional love. It is both ancient and new every year. This Christmas, I pray that the spirit of Emmanuel -- God with us -- fills your life. I pray that God will once again break into history and hold you and all those you love in God's embrace. I pray you will share God's love with those around you in acts of mercy and justice. And, I pray that you will hear -- however distant -- the singing of the angels' alleluias and experience the light of God's glory illuminating the year ahead. This year has taken so much from us, but it has also gifted us with blessings as well. One of those blessings is unfolding in the night sky. The Star of Bethlehem or Christmas Star, which astronomers theorize may have been caused by the great conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn passing one another very closely, will be visible on December 21. This magnificent celestial wonder has not been visible in this way since March 4, 1226, and will not likely occur again before 2239. I hope you will take the time to look up and receive this blessing. I pray we will all quiet ourselves and receive the wonder of the light. May your Christmas celebration reflect the realities of these uncertain times. But more importantly, may it also be filled with the wonder of a star that caused the angels to sing. I wish each of you love. Grace and Blessings, the Lord is come!
Bishop LaTrelle Easterling Baltimore-Washington Conference The United Methodist Church