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Holiday greetings from WNY faith leaders and freethinkers

Red and white graphic with snowflakes saying "Happy Holidays."

The holidays can be the best of times and the worst of times.

There are lots of festive gatherings, delicious food and inspirational music, but plenty of seasonal stress, magnified loneliness and painful depression, as well. And added to this year's mix is the uncertainty of COVID-19 and its new variants.

So WBFO reached out to local faith leaders and freethinkers to ask them for a holiday message to Western New Yorkers. The results not only showcase the diversity of our region, but a commonality of goodwill.

A red bow

(in alphabetical order)

Hello. This is Ray Eigen Ball from the Buffalo Zen Darma Community.

We're an affiliate of Zen Mountain Monastery in the Catskill Mountains. I have a message for you from the abbot, Geoffrey Shugan Arnold. May we be grateful for all we receive, compassionately practice our difficulties and each day aspire to diminish the sorrow and strengthen the kindness for every living creature in our beloved world. Thank you for listening.

Ray Eigen Ball Holiday Message

Hi. I'm Robin Blumner, CEO of the Center for Inquiry, an organization devoted to reason, science, humanism and the promotion of secularism in society.

Our international headquarters is in Amherst, New York. And today I thought I'd share an inspirational quote from the great American orator Robert Green Ingersoll. He said, "While I'm opposed to all Orthodox creeds, I have a creed myself, and my creed is this: Happiness is the only good. The time to be happy is now. The place to be happy as here. The way to be happy is to make others so." Wishing you and your family a very happy holiday season and a happy new year. And may we all strive in this coming year to make others so.

I'm Dr. Stan Bratton of the Network for Religious Communities.

Light is an important symbol and plays a significant role in the celebrations of many different religious traditions. In the season, both Hindus and Jews celebrate festivals of light, Christians celebrate the coming of God's light into the world, while others celebrate the return of the sun in the winter solstice. In the midst of this season of COVID darkness and political division, let us celebrate our own traditions while focusing upon those things which bind us together.

Dr. Stan Bratton Holiday Message

Hello. I'm Bishop Michael Fisher of the Diocese of Buffalo.

I'm delighted to have this opportunity to wish you and your families a safe, holy and restful Christmas celebration. It's a time of renewed hope, even in the midst of the ongoing concern due to the coronavirus. We remember and hold in our hearts all those whom we've loved and lost, and who have been so affected by this terrible virus. And yet because of our faith, we look ahead with anticipation toward a new year and a new beginning. Please know of my prayers for each and every one of you and your loved ones in this holy season when our faith is renewed, as we turn our attention to the potential of new beginnings with the dawn of a new year. May God assure you of his constant presence and bless you and all those whom you love. Merry Christmas.

Bishop Michael Fisher Holiday Message

This is Cantor Irwin Gelman of Congregation Beth Abraham, nestled between Panos and Mr. Pizza on Elmwood Avenue in Buffalo.

I want to take this opportunity to wish all of you, your family and friends a season of happiness, fulfillment and health. At this year's end, we see comfort getting together with family and friends to celebrate those most sacred of wishes for the whole year. Peace for all of us and the entire world. I urge you to stay safe, masked and vaccinated so that we can protect our loved ones in our community and know that there will be many more seasons of celebration to come. Happy holidays.

Cantor Irwin Gelman Holiday Message

As-salaam alaikum. My name is Faizan Haq. I'm president of Western New York Muslims.

On the behalf of our organization, we wish you all the best and happy greetings for your holiday season. Inshallah, God willing, we will see you next year, 2022. Please take care of your family, your friends and the community around you. Wishing you all the best. Thank you.

Hello. This is Arya Hridaya from Rimey Shedrup Ling.

Be well and have a joyful holiday season. Namaste.

Arya Hridaya Holiday Message

Rev. Dr. Ken Hughes from First Presbyterian Church of Buffalo.

In my Christmas Eve meditations, it has always been my practice to work in a scene and a character or two from Dickens' A Christmas Carol. This year I'm moving away from all the featured characters — Scrooge, Marley and the three ghosts — and focusing on Dickens' portrayal of very ordinary people. Because over the last 18 months of pandemic, it is ordinary people who have stood out, persevered, grinded it out the hard times and kept the faith. Consider this scene aboard a ship far out at sea, to which the Ghost of Christmas Present transports Scrooge. They stood beside the helmsman at the wheel, the lookout in the bow, the officers who had the watch. Every man among them hummed a Christmas tune, or had a Christmas thought, or spoke below his breath to his companion of some bygone Christmas Day, with homeward hopes belonging to it. Ordinary people, much like that solitary family moving toward Bethlehem, were against all expectations and a defiance of appearance and circumstance. Love dwells, a spirit that is spread through the centuries and across the globe to touch us this Christmas season. Merry Christmas and God bless us everyone.

Rev. Dr. Ken Hughes Holiday Message

This is Deacon Michelle Kraebel from Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Depew.

When you are opening up the gifts from under your Christmas tree this year, look at the manger scene and remember, the greatest gift of all is the baby lying there surrounded by his parents and farm animals. This is how God chose to come into our world — born in a stable because there was no room at the end. I hope you always let Jesus know that there is always room in your heart for him. God bless you all and have a wonderful holiday season. Merry Christmas.

Deacon Michelle Kraebel Holiday Message

I'm Rev. Dr. Todd Leach, a Senior Pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church, Buffalo.

On behalf of this faith community, I wish you a Happy Hanukkah, a Happy Kwanzaa and a Merry Christmas. It is our prayer that the gifts of hope, peace, joy and love be born to each of you anew this season. And together, as an interfaith community, may we join hands in ushering these gifts into our greater community. May you have a blessed new year.

Shalom. This is Rabbi Adam Rosenbaum of Temple Beth Tzedek in Williamsville.

Wishing all of you wonderful December holidays and a Happy New Year. Judaism has always emphasized the importance of listening to diverse voices and being willing to question. As we enter the new year, let us always be open to considering ideas from multiple sources. Let us know that we are stronger when we are together. L'chaim. To life. Happy New Year.

This is Rabbi Sharon Sobol from Temple Beth Zion in Buffalo.

We wish all of you a new year filled with the blessings of hope, justice and peace. Happy New Year.

Hi. This is Tony from UB Freethinkers and Atheists and Freethinkers of Western New York.

Wear a mask. Get vaccinated. Stay warm this winter and keep everyone safe. Use whatever privilege you have to help the people who need it. And the people that you can't help, refer them to someone who can. Stay warm Buffalo.

Tony Holiday Message

Listen to WBFO all week to hear these messages on air.