My heart overflows this Christmastide, having seen the Holy Spirit at work these past two weeks at Bethesda-by-the-Sea, and this holy season continues to be balm for this priest’s soul. After a very long 2020, the weeks leading up to Christmas and this first half of the twelve days have brought light and life to campus in ways I had missed. There is always something magical about Christmas, but this year, I watched the magic happen over and over again.
Christmas Eve and the two nights preceding it brought Bethesdans and guests to the Christmas Pilgrimage in the gardens and in the church. Safely, joyfully, and reverently, over 700 worshippers made their way from the Annunciation to the Nativity, walking the Christmas story. Presented by over 100 cast members, staff, clergy, and crew, the pilgrimage, punctuated by the Bethesda Choir singing carols and including communion in the nave, gave our community the opportunity to be together again on this holiest of holy days. Between the countless volunteers who made these services possible and the pilgrims themselves, I have seen faces that I have missed deeply since the spring and placed communion in the hands of some worshippers for the first time since March, often with tears in both our eyes.
With Sunday morning, in-person services having resumed in the Garden Chapel at 8:00AM and now in the Garth at 10:00AM, there is a joy in this place, a buzz, a renewed energy, that, with the light and power of the Christmas Pilgrimage, I feel the Spirit shaping us, re-forming us, gathering us again to worship God together in new and inspiring ways, and it thrills me to witness this season of light and rebirth.
God bless you as the celebration of the Incarnation continues for another six days, and may you, too, feel the light of God breaking into your soul.
The Rev. Burl Salmon
Associate for Christian Education, Pastoral Care, and Outreach