December 23, 2022
Dear Fellow Christians in the Episcopal Diocese of South Dakota,
As the days of the hopeful and expectant Advent season begin to fade, and as the daylight hours slowly start to grow longer with each passing night, may the light that Jesus brought into this world shine in your life and through your ministry to others!
One of my favorite Scripture passages, especially around the winter solstice, comes from John 1:5: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” I think of this passage as our hours of daylight physically become longer, and much more importantly, I am reminded of these words regularly as I cross our Diocese and hear stories of how you are all responding to God’s invitation to share the Light of the world that came into being on Christmas Day. The “darkness” represents your challenges, dire though some of them are – and yet, time and time again, with faith, resilience, and perseverance, the challenges you face do not overcome your willingness to love your neighbors and bring much-needed change into your parts of God’s kingdom.
Another reason that the passage of John 1:5 is one of my favorites is because of how the King James Bible translates it: “And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” These words, for me, speak about those who see the good works for Jesus that you do because of your faith – and just don’t “get it.” These are the people who say, “Why try? Why bother? Why do?” And yet they see you trying, they see you bothering, and they see you doing. Furthermore, they see the transformative difference that your ministry is making right where you are, both small and large. These are the ones whom the prophet Isaiah describes when he speaks of a people walking in darkness who have seen a great light. Although they may not be able to comprehend that light or fully understand it, and although they may think that there is no logical reason that any difference could possibly be made, they cannot deny that lives are being changed regardless! And as a result, they begin to believe.
Thus, my prayer and wish for all of you this Christmas is that Christ’s light will continue to shine through each of you during this upcoming holy season and throughout 2023. Be and remain forever strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power – and allow the Christ light within you to ever shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven (Ephesians 6:10, Matthew 5:16).
The Rt. Rev. Dr. Jonathan H. Folts