The Advent season is here and awaits our attention to the invitation to slow down and prepare for the gift of Christ. I invite you to embrace this Holy Season, which can invoke in us a desire to want to know and experience a fuller measure of hope, love, joy, and peace that Christ offers to each of us. Advent invites us to “Come and find the quiet center in the crowded life we lead, find the room for hope to enter, find the frame where we are freed: Clear the chaos and the clutter, clear our eyes that we can see all the things that really matter, be at peace, and simply be.” (Words of Shirley Erena Murray from “Come and Find the Quiet Center”).
Are you preparing for Christ … for the hope of Christ instilled in you to be renewed; for the love of Christ to be manifested in and through your faith, life, and witness; for the joy of Christ to permeate your life and overflow in your acts of compassion and service; and for the peace of Christ to calm your fears and to reconcile differences? Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to slow down and prepare for the gift of Christ?
In the Gospel of Luke, the angel Gabriel prepares Mary to receive the gift of Christ by telling her that she was surrounded by God’s presence. Mary was shaken, not understanding why she was receiving the message. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” (Luke 1:31-33, NIV).
Mary, still not understanding says, “How can this be … since I am a virgin?” Isn’t it interesting that even after being prepared with the assurance that she had nothing to fear, Mary still asked, “how can this be?” She could not fathom the idea of how it would be possible to conceive a child. The angel told her that God has a surprise for her, and the Holy Spirit will overshadow her and the one who will be born will be called the Son of God – Jesus. Because of the grace and patience of God, Mary accepted the freedom and power that God gave her and said, “let it be done to me according to your word.”
How often have we thought or uttered the words, “how can this be?” What about the times when we wonder or doubt whether Christ could make a miracle out of the mess or chaos we witness or experience in our lives. Or the times when we pray and prepare ourselves to receive the gift of Christ and even feel the assurance of the presence of Christ, and then something unexpected happens and we are shaken by our own fears. Or what about the times when God has dispatched “angels” to give us a word of blessing and encouragement, or to lend a helping hand, or to be a listening ear or to give us a message of peace and hope; and we find ourselves rejoicing and saying, “God is good, all the time. And all the time, God is good!” As it was with Mary, so it is with us … God has a plan, a purpose, and a promise for our life!
God is always surprising us and giving us the gift of Christ. May we always be open to the surprise of God. May we open space in our hearts and our lives to discover and rediscover the all-encompassing love and promises of God. And may we always expect to experience a full measure of hope, joy, peace, and new life through the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Yes, even when we least expect it! May it be so!
Executive Secretary to the Bishop
The East Ohio Conference Office:
located in North Canton, OH,
near Akron-Canton Airport.
8800 Cleveland Ave. NW
North Canton, OH 44720
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