top of page

Pastor's Message - December 2023

In Times Such as This

The image shows up in my social media news feed almost every day in recent weeks, three boys with clothing and items identifying them as a Jew, a Muslim, and a Christian, all smiling with the dome of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in the background. As best I can tell, the original is stock photography from Getty Images, and therefore under copyright. There are other iterations of course, similar im- ages, especially images of Jews and Muslims together, all meant to convey the idea that we can peacefully co-exist.

Of course, there is nothing peaceful about the Holy Land this month, with violence in the West Bank, the terrorist attack of October 7th, and Israel's military response. The war between Hamas and Israel threatens to spread at any moment, and tens of thousands of innocent civilians are suffering. There are accusations of crimes against humanity, of ethnic cleansing and genocide.

Our own government is deeply entangled in the conflict, and as much as we might want to distance ourselves from the violence, we can't. Centuries of Christian antisemitism contributed to the need for a Jewish state, and America's response to the 9/11 attacks destabilized the region, creating space for the development of even more shocking forms of terrorism under the self-proclaimed “Islamic State,” precisely the kind of live-streamed violence we saw on October 7th.

I was thinking about this when the organizer of this year's Interfaith Thanksgiving Service asked me to deal with the “elephant in the room,” the trauma in our own community created by this conflict on the other side of the world, and the fraying of carefully cultivated interfaith friendships.

I spoke to those gathered about that Christmas Eve eleven years ago when I led what one guest called the “worst Christmas Eve service” he had ever attended. Just days earlier, and not so far across Long Island Sound, a gunman had entered Sandy Hook Elementary School and slaughtered educators and young children. It was all I could do to get through the service without falling apart at the pulpit.

We are meant to be joyous at Christmas, both culturally and theologically, glad tidings and great joy, for a child is born in Bethlehem, a Savior, and besides, there will be gifts and egg nog and twinkly lights and all manner of festivity. But if we are honest about scripture, then we have to read that portion of the gospel attributed to Matthew in which King Herod the Great orders the slaughter of the boy toddlers in Bethlehem, the story of the Holy Family fleeing as refugees, crossing the bor- der for the safety of their child.

Christmas is not less Christmas-y because times are scary. A perfect world would not need a Savior. Jesus, revolutionary child of God and teacher of radical love, was born in times such as this. May we follow his star, this year and always.

Rev. Gary Brinn


bottom of page