Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
“All people on earth that do dwell, sing to the Lord with cheerful voice…” These are not the words of some popular Christmas song, but they are the ones along with the herald of trumpets that announced the beginning of my Ordination and Installation rites last August 8th. Since then the dog days of summer have given way to a delightful autumn season and now we face the winter chill and its ice and snow.
Nonetheless, the invitation of that August day to “sing to the Lord with cheerful voice” is one that can reverberate across the cold earth and warm our hearts as we prepare to celebrate the great feast of the Nativity of the Lord. God has spoken to us through his Son, the Word made flesh. Salvation has been revealed to all the nations. What is there not to sing about?
However, I am not sure everyone feels like singing this Christmas. Perhaps you have lost a cherished family member this past year or are struggling with ill health personally or with a family member or friend. Maybe the scandal caused by church leaders or political leaders is causing you to question where truth can be found and what to believe in. There are also family concerns — having a living wage, the safety of our neighborhoods, and how to keep our young people away from debilitating addictions that can lead to death prematurely.
All these things can darken our lives. Yet, it is into just such a scene of chaos and desperation that Jesus Christ was born! Yes, our Nativity scenes today often look so peaceful, but that is because the birth of our Lord over 2,000 years ago ushered into our world a new Hope. As the prophet Isaiah proclaims: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone” (9:1).
It is this light and its accompanying hope that I was invited to carry into our world on the day of my ordination as your Bishop. Cardinal Dolan spoke of my shepherd’s staff as that of a lantern lighting the way for others. Although a year ago I would have been found in a little village in the countryside, like the shepherds and the kings, I have been sent forth to carry the light of Christ to the people of Central New York.
I want to thank you again for making me feel so welcome in my new home. You have certainly been a light onto my path! And now, as we approach the New Year 2020, perhaps we could heed the ancient proverb that says, “It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.” In doing so we, too, can help to cast out the gloom and assist “all people on earth who do dwell [to] sing to the Lord with cheerful voice.”
Please know of my prayers for you and your loved ones in this sacred season. Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year!
In the Name of Jesus,
Most Reverend Douglas J. Lucia