Honoring the Nestorian Christians

Thursday, December 25, 2014



(Rev. Dr. Winfred Vergara, St. James Episcopal Church, Elmhurst, New York, 12/25/2014)

 "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light."

“Darkness cannot be overcome by darkness; only light can.”

 They were shepherds watching their flocks by night. The night was dark and cold in Galilee.  And their eyes were heavy for sleep. Suddenly, a bright shining star appeared on the sky. It pointed to a place in Bethlehem, beckoning them to follow. And when they reached the place, there in a manger, was the Baby whose radiant face beams with heavenly light. They were captivated and so with their sheep. They knelt down and worshipped Jesus.

 They were kings and wise men from the East. Legends told them years ago that a Child King will be born and a star will point them the way. The star shone and they followed, westward leading, until they reached the little town of Bethlehem. There on the stable lies the King of kings and Lord of lords. They bowed down and worship Jesus, the Peace Child, and they offered gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

The message of Christmas is for all. At the birth of Jesus, the poor and the rich; the kings and the paupers; the East and West; the humans and the animals are one. As one carol says, “heaven and nature sing.” The message of the angels was, “Glory to God in the highest and peace to His people on earth.”

The spirit of Christmas comes as a gift of time. For a moment, the world pauses from its stresses and strains, from its conflicts and tumults, from its problems and worries .  Once a year, the joy that exudes from an innocent-looking child becomes a light that beckons everyone to turn their swords into plows and their spears into pruning hooks. Once a year, the love of God is rekindled in everyone’s hearts as we give and forgive. Once a year, the faith of God’s people is refreshed and renewed.
Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. His mercy never changes, his love never changes, and his compassion never changes. When we turn to Him in faith, He provides the spiritual answer to our deepest questions. And even if the answer is not to our satisfaction, He gives us comfort to live with it. God is good all the time.

At this Christmas season in this time and place, my prayer is for the unity of this city. Recent events seem to remind us that our country, the “United States” remains divided. The age-old problem of racism has resurfaced. The Black and White division seems to rear its ugly head once more. There is a certain feeling from the Black community that they have been targeted by the police and unjustly treated by the justice system. The shooting of Trayvor Martin by George Zimmerman in Florida; the shooting of Michael Brown by Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri; and the death of Eric Garner in Staten Island, have widened the racial divide---"black being killed by white."

In an extreme and irrational reaction, a black man from Maryland, came to New York and in an execution style ambush, killed two New York cops. Ironically, the two cops Raphael Ramos and Winjen Liu are not white. Ramos is Latino and Liu is Chinese. In the cycle of violence, there is neither rhyme nor reason. 

You know Ramos, Liu, Trayvor, Eric, Zimmerman, Wilson and the New York cops can be all members of this congregation. Here at St. James, we are a multiracial church, reflecting the growing diversity of this country. Many years ago and until the 1960’s, the pernicious racial segregation was a problem.  One of the early Filipinos in America recalled those days that whenever he went into the public toilets, he saw two signs for "Whites Only “and for "Blacks Only."He did not know what to do because he was neither black nor white but brown.

The Civil Rights movement of the 1960 paved the way for desegregation and some semblance of equality. But the sin of racism continues to rear its ugly head and creating deep seated suspicion and distrust. Almost 50 years ago, today, the dream of Martin Luther King, Jr. for equality, justice and peace continues to elude us. 

But today, the American Society is no longer black and white. We are people from many colors, races, languages, ethnicities and cultures. The dynamics have changed and are changing. Here in New York, we have an opportunity to dream and to pray that God would weave us together into a tapestry of colors.  In the clinic where I am currently undergoing radiation therapy, I am fascinated by the racial and cultural composition of the staff: the medical director is Chinese; the oncologist is Russian; the administrator is Filipino; the technicians are Asians and Latinos; the nurse is African American; and the driver is Guyanese.

I used to tell them that whenever I am at the clinic, I also feel that I am at St. James Church. Yes, St. James is one of these churches that are a fulfillment of Martin Luther King’s dream that churches are not to be segregated. Not only that we have learned to co-exist as an interracial church; we are also experiencing ease in relating across cultures.

So we have an opportunity to radiate our light here in Elmhurst. The people of New York, despite its neon lights, are still walking in the darkness. It is the darkness of interracial fear, suspicion and mutual distrust. So let us let our light, the light of Christ, shine and shine brightly in our neighborhood and wherever God places us to be. As it was in Bethlehem, over 2,000 years ago, we must pray that the Light of Christ will shine anew in the context in which we find ourselves. 

Here at St. James, let our light point to Christ’s love as the final answer to racism and the fulfillment of our dream of justice, equality, racial harmony and oneness. Amen.

My wife, Agela ad I wish to thak you for your Christmas greetigs ad my birthday this day, Dec.25.  Oe letter is missig from my computer ad you kow what it is.

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